The Longest Night
V20 DA - Draft
Good evening. I hope we find you well. Welcome to V20 Dark Ages. To put it succinctly; you’re probably familiar with Vampire, and probably with Vampire: The Masquerade, 20th Anniversary Edition. You’re almost certainly familiar with roleplaying games or storytelling games.
V20 Dark Ages is its own product. If you’re just coming in to Vampire, this is the only book you need to play. If you’re a long-time fan, you’re going to find all sorts of little love letters in here, as well as updated concepts, and some new ideas inspired by the past iterations of Vampire and Dark Ages.
What This Book Is
Here are some of our goals with V20 Dark Ages.
A Nostalgic Experience: Most of you are coming to this book with years of experience with Vampire. Every single member of our team shares that. We’re digging deep to find the things that we love about Vampire, and hopefully the things you’ve loved about Vampire, and we’re giving a new set of eyes on them.
An Authentic Experience: The Dark Medieval World is all about style, and authentic experiences. Note that this does not inherently mean historically accurate experiences. V20 Dark Ages takes place in 1242, but stylistically, we pick and choose ideas, both fictional and factual, that build an evocative experience.
A New Experience: The Dark Medieval World is a large, frightening place. Here, we want to offer some new experiences and characters to help fill that world. In many cases, the material will be deeply reminiscent of past iterations of Vampire, but you’re not going to be reading the same content over again. We’ll tell these stories with new voices, from different angles. We’ll be providing new options, and new biases.
A Unique Experience: Tonight, we’re shaking the dust off our old party dress. We’re going to try to remember the old steps, and we’re going to show off some moves we’ve learned since we last wore it. We might stumble here and there, but I think at the end of the night, you’ll want to take us home for drinks and maybe a little more.
A Supplemental Experience: This book is not Roleplaying or Storyteller System 101. We offer some advice for storytelling, but we’re light on the fundamentals. We have all the rules, but we saved space on rules elaboration and examples so we could devote that space to more game content. V20 goes to great lengths in a lot of these places, and if you need further details, it’s a great read.
New Rules, Old Rules
Part of our philosophy of bringing an authentic but not always accurate experience is offering some new angles and ideas in game rules. If you’re familiar with past iterations of Dark Ages, you’ll notice that some of the Disciplines have changed, and some of this, that, and the other thing might be a little different. We want to give you a little more bang for your buck, and provide some fresh content to go along with the swaths of reprinted and recompiled material. If you prefer the new editions, that’s great. If you prefer the old editions, we’ve written this book to be highly compatible with old content. If you prefer the Vampire the Dark Ages version of Superpowerus 5 over ours, use it.
What is a Vampire
In V20 Dark Ages, players portray vampires in 1242, or as we call it, “The Dark Medieval World”. Our vampires are unique to V20 Dark Ages; in some ways, they’re even different than V20 vampires. They share some traits with mythological, literary, and cinematic vampires. But it’s best we get some basics out of the way right now:
Vampires are immortal. Mostly true. While they can be destroyed, they can live forever.
Vampires drink blood. True. Vampires exist on the blood of the living. They take no sustenance from mortal food. They drink via retractable fangs, which they develop immediately upon becoming undead. After feeding, they can lick the wounds and close them, leaving no evidence of their theft.
A vampire’s victim becomes a vampire. False. Some vampires kill dozens or even hundreds of humans across their years. Vampires choose to create new vampires by first draining a mortal of all their blood, then feeding them from their own veins.
Vampires are demons. False. Vampires are possessed of a dark passenger deep within
a Beast which compels them to monstrous fight or flight responses. But vampires are essentially people in a horrific situation.
Vampires die in the sun. True. While some can hold off the sun’s rays for a few moments, sunlight will quickly reduce a vampire to ash.
Vampires shy from crosses and running water. False. While some rare specimens cannot stand classic banes such as garlic and crosses, most have no issue. However, some of particularly true faith can repel vampires with the strength of their convictions.
Vampires die from a stake through the heart. False. However, wooden stakes will paralyze the undead, if penetrating the heart. This leaves them vulnerable.
Vampires have unholy strength and power. True and false. With time and with lineage, vampires gain certain supernatural abilities, from frightening strength, to the ability to make an unwitting victim fall into a false love, or to transform into a wild beast.
Vampires have sex. Unabashedly true. Vampiric existence is one of taboo and dark celebration. To many, sex fit those descriptions well. If anything, to vampires, sex is only diminished somewhat by the constant overstimulation of feeding. To a vampire, the moment of feeding is the single most ecstatic, euphoric experience of their immortal existences. Indeed, some attribute a holy origin to the rapture of blood drinking. A vampire’s bite is not a metaphor for sex. Vampires have sex. They have great sex. They also need to feed on human blood to survive. These things can occur at the same time, but they are not the same thing.
In 1242, most vampires in Europe believe they descend from Caine. Caine, from the Abrahamic Bible, who killed his brother. Caine, who God cursed for committing the first murder. According to the legend, Caine took his vampiric curse to the roads, and created three other vampires. This second generation of vampires created thirteen. These thirteen, the third generation, each birthed a clan of vampires.
Vampires were once human. They become Cainites through a process called The Embrace. A vampire drains every bit of a human’s blood, then feeds the corpse some of her own blood. The corpse becomes Cainite, and rises, hungry. The new vampire is undead; her heart does not beat, she does not breathe, she need not eat. Over the following nights, she adapts and adjusts to her new state, learning the capabilities of her Cainite vitae – the cursed blood that animates her.
The hunt means something different to every Cainite. To some, it means finding drunk derelicts who can’t find back. To others, it means finding lovers who want for the bite, and ask for more when it’s over. To others, it means frightening a combatant with vulgar displays of power. To many, it means cultivating a cadre of humans who grow to need the closeness of the Kiss – the Cainite bite. The hunt is a shift in power dynamics. The vampire finds a person, and puts him into a moment of vulnerability. No matter how she finds that vulnerability, or whom she finds it in, she finds it. Sometimes she creates it. Sometimes she searches long and hard for it. Sometimes she simply waits for it.
Here’s what you can expect to see in the coming chapters:
Chapter One: A Place in Time
This is your introduction to V20 Dark Ages. It covers what it means to be a vampire, a Cainite, in 1242.
Chapter Two: The Clans of Caine
Next, we explore the clans of Caine, and some of the esoteric bloodlines of vampires not so tightly married to the clan structure.
Chapter Three: The Roads
Afterwards, we touch on the Roads vampires walk, the philosophies and loose organizations that keep them from devolving into animals.
Chapter Four: Character Creation
Now, we make the characters with which we tell our stories. As well, we define the traits that comprise your characters.
Chapter Five: Disciplines
Next, we address the gifts of Cainite blood; the sorceries and powers vampires wield.
Chapter Six: Rules
These are the basic rules for play. They are how we resolve conflicts in V20 Dark Ages.
Chapter Seven: Dramatic Systems
Here, we offer more complex and specific systems for play.
Chapter Eight: Storytelling
This chapter provides advice for how to tell your stories and make a game flow.
Chapter Nine: The Dark Medieval World
Here, we offer advice, essays, and options for crafting the world in which your story takes place. We also provide ideas and systems for Storyteller characters to fill out the setting.
Appendix One: Merits and Flaws
Here, we provide Merits and Flaws, optional traits to add expanded detail to your characters.
Appendix Two: Apocrypha of the Clans
This section features bonus content, some new game traits, some additional fiction, and other material to offer some depth to your V20 Dark Ages chronicles.
Vampires are popular. Also, the night sky is black.
Finding source material for your V20 Dark Ages chronicle should be no difficult task. But beyond vampire stories, right now, period dramas and stylistic medieval fantasy are huge. You’d be hard-pressed to not find solid inspirational material.
Off the beaten path, I’d like to suggest Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) and his book The Crusades. It gives a strong, compelling look at every day life in the period. Unlike many accountings, this greatly favors the common, working class person. Which is to say, the kinds of people Cainites would be likely to interact with on a night-to-night basis.
Chapter One: A Place In Time
Aye! Here! Who was it that sent you? Did your sire make you then realize just how very tiring the whole thing is? How hard it is to raise a fledgling vampire up from the mud?
Pay it no mind. No mind at all. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last. You, come sit here at my knee. Stop your sobbing, you’re wasting the vitae.
You’re the Damned, now, childe, and it could be a whole lot worse. Count your blessings, aye? Being damned, vampires, it’s as bad as you feared and better than you ever imagine. You sit here, and I’ll tell you all you really need to know. A hundred Cainites or more come and sat here to hear this, and now you join a proud tradition.
Where to start, since you need me to start somewhere… There’s a beginning to all of this, but that’s not a story I know. I know the end though, and what follows the end, so why don’t we start there?
Someone murdered you, childe. Someone decided that your life was to come to an end. There are a lot of justifications for a vampire murdering another, but the only reason it’s ever done is egotistical selfishness. I know, I’ve done in more than a few times.
What’s worse, though, is that after they murdered you, they corrupted your corpse, put their foul blood in your mouth, and pulled you from the Grace of God back into this mud pit we call Earth. You’ve been robbed of Heaven, childe, and in exchange, you’ll get an eternity of struggle or servitude. Or you’ll get a gruesome and painful end. We don’t know what happens when we die the Final Death. Only that we are gone. So I’ll make no promise of Heaven now, but then again, I won’t promise Hell, either.
Physiognomy of the Dead
But it isn’t all doom and gloom, little bird. Here. You wipe your eyes again with my apron. Put on a brave face and I’ll tell you about the wonders of your new self. There’s a world of new curiosities and pleasures ahead of you. Oh. Don’t you turn away when an ugly old woman talks of pleasures. You’d be surprised what joys you’ll soon find in horror, and what toe-curling delight you’ll draw out of things you’d never speak about in church.
Your body, mine, all of us, are made of sin. It’s not a thing to be ashamed of; it’s simply what it is. What a human can do we can do better. We can run faster, see in the dark. For most of us, our bodies become more perfect visions of what we were as humans. No, not me, childe, but I am a special kind of sinner. No! You are a creature meant to steal virtue and arouse vice, you drink blood and tempt the holy with your strange secret powers and your allure.
It’s the cleanliness about you that’s always thrown me. Even in my clan, don’t our teeth straighten and grow so very white? I’ve watched during the Embrace, watches as pox marks vanish and turn to baby smooth skin. Smoother. Once, I saw a lad who was struck by an affliction of the crown that left him bald as a friar, but didn’t
Damnation go and give him a head full of lovely hair. Didn’t he just become a randy beast as a result?
This is what I’m saying, we’re creatures made of sin rebuilt by the corruption of Caine to spread slowly but surely across all four corners of the earth.
What else have you noticed? The heart, aye? Sad that. No, your heart won’t beat unless you make it or you’re thick in the heady rush of slaking your lust. See here, the tears you’ve wept on my skirts? They’re bloody too, and so beware, as a good weeping will give away your nature. You’ll learn to hold it in, childe; we all do somehow.
Did I say that you are stronger? Throw yourself from a parapet, be kicked by a horse, even a well-intended thrust by a man-at-arms will hardly slow you down. Beware only the Sun, God’s judgment, and fire, God’s purifier, and a blow that would sever your head from your shoulders.
No matter whatever the Orthodoxy out of Russia tells you that a stake will kill you, they’re wrong. Put a spike of hollywood into a vampire’s chest, and all you will do is stop him. When the stake is removed, he will rise, most likely hungry, mad, and bent on revenge against them that incapacitated him in the first place.
But you’ve still got your human mind, odd aye? All your memories, your feelings, your attachments. You may still be in the town where you grew up, living on your father’s land. You still feel guilt, don’t you? A heavy heart over your first kill? Oh, I see it in your eyes.
There’s a reason for that! For now, you’ve got a human soul as you did before you died. Does that comfort you? I don’t know that it should, because having a human soul means that you can still lose it. And if you do? You fall to the Beast. You become a creature not of sin, but a creature of destruction and murder. You’re nothing but killing and eating without a thought in your head or your heart.
You act coy, aye, but I know you already know what I’m describing. You can feel it, can’t you? Moving behind your eyes, testing the confines of your ribcage, like your heart is its prison. It’s boiling in your blood, this hate, your Beast. But make no mistake; it’s as much ally as it is enemy. It needs your body to survive for it to survive, and so, it will keep you alive if you know how to find equilibrium with it.
When you see fire and you start to run before you’ve realized it, that is the Beast protecting you. When you fly into a rage and kill off the competition invading your territory, that is the Beast ensuring you have enough blood to survive. It isn’t kind or beautiful, but it is nature, after a fashion. It is your nature, anyway, and nature can be terribly cruel.
Midnight Courts and Churchyards
Anywhere you go in the world, so far as I can tell, you will find Vampires. And anywhere you find Vampires, you will find us practicing most of the same customs and idle pastimes. We meet in pairs or small groups, we wage shadow wars against other small groups, we plot and plan, and we make sure that our downfall, as well as the downfall of our enemies are a sort of spectator sport by those untouched by the drama.
We call this society, though it has as much in common with society as rats fighting over the pickings on a corpse. We align ourselves by family lines, we vie for affection, protection, and power handed down by monsters that are our Elders in age and strength. And we bicker, backstab, and collude. Sometimes we kill, but that’s rare, as the first draw of Final Death can turn so quickly into a spiral of revenge after revenge in most counties, we give up our rights to murder one another to one final authority. In this part of the world, we tend to call these leaders Princes. I’m told outside of Christendom, they have other titles, and sometimes, very different ways of doing things.
And anywhere you find us, you’ll find a succession of older and older monsters, those who have seen more and more of the extremes and limitations of forever. Poor bastards. Sooner or later, ten years dead turns to a hundred years dead, unless you’ve gotten yourself destroyed. A hundred years becomes two hundred in the blink of an eye. For those of us who do not eat and drink at the table of humility like myself, that age flies by and leaves an Elder hungry for more than just blood and sin. It leaves them hungry for conquest and the power like unto God.
The War of Princes
In these modern nights where travel, communication, and technology leaps forward at such a pace to leave old ladies like myself confused and a touch afraid, we have the War of Princes. In these nights that are so very holy, and yet, without the Voice of God, (if you’re a Papist, that is, we are without a Pope after all.) It is in these nights, that the Eldest of us, and most listless of us war endlessly over land and power and esteem and sometimes nothing at all.
The Audacity of Youth
Was there peace when I was young? That’s a difficult question to answer, but at least, in my wild youth, no great Prince demanded I sneak away as fast as my legs could carry me to conduct clandestine war against the Prince of Cardiff. I have witnessed, to my sorrow, a generation of childer Embraced for no purpose other than quick sortie and death at the hands of other childer Embraced elsewhere for the same ends. I will tell you all I can in hopes of preparing you, but alas, I weep inside knowing what your fate is so likely to be.
Here, I will lower my voice so that we may not be overheard, though such a thing is unlikely. Know that there are those youths who have not accepted the endless wars as their only fate. They reject the Right of Princes and the authority of the eldest. They draw from dark histories and mythologies. They gather even now in the forgotten or forsaken places in London and indeed all over the world.
I would not say go that way. But it is no more likely a death than the way that was planned for you at your making.
The oldest books, records, and recollections of the eldest tell us that we have done the things we do now since God threw Caine out of Nod. How our modern minds operate so much like ancient ones tells you this: change is potentially impossible for us as a whole. May I live so long as to see those words proven false.
Oh the claim of age! See how I lord it about when anyone comes to order me about. Pah!
But pay my bitterness little mind, Grandmother Penne has always been a Fetch and Carry, now I am simply an old Fetch and Carry.
For some, though, for most even, age brings with it a granted and obvious shine of respectability. This is a dangerous world we have all been Damned into, and I would say, surviving in it for any length of time is a thing to consider if not respect in its own right. Any Vampire who has lived even a year longer than you may have something to teach you. Or at least, have a thing you can learn on account of them. While you have no reason to love a monster with decades or centuries on you, it may be wise to give ‘em a nod and a bowed head so long as they’ve got knowledge on how to survive that you don’t. If they’re willing to teach, then aye, maybe respect is a thing they can earn. If they refuse, ah well, you can draw the knowledge out in other ways.
A fledgling, a youth, a wee, just born demon fresh from their bloody end. That’s you, my love, still under your Sire’s wing with more to learn than a fresh birthed calf. A calf is born knowing how to walk. You barely know even that. You’re full of instincts, of course, the Beast guides you to fear fire and sunlight, and that you need to feed to live. What your instincts fail is telling you how to live, night to night, cursed as you are. That’s where your sire comes in, or if you’re very lucky, Grandma Penne. You are an afterthought in most Cainte courts; a non-being who has not earned the right to be even called vampire. You may find that your needs are secondary to every other you meet, and there is little justice for you that is not granted you.
When your sire’s had about enough of you, or else, has decided that you’ve learned what they can teach you, she’ll take you to her elder, and usually her Prince, and release you formally from her ward. Two things happen in that moment. First, you are awarded a thousand new freedoms. Second, you are tossed to the wolves. Now, you are a vampire in your own right with your own responsibilities and respect. But make no mistake, to many a vampire, a childe so young as a neonate is still disposable. To many, you are, at release from your sire, a new pawn on the board, and one every vampire around you may hope to manipulate to their own end. Or else, they may simply hope to destroy and consume you for whatever terrible reasons they have.
So here now is a wretch worth paying attention to, aye? An ancilla is a member of the Damned who has managed to hang on for a century or two, and not gone so insane as to be put down. To the youngest of us, they may be more accessible than elders and saner, so worth listening to. To the eldest of us, they may still be seen as disposable, but since they are so much harder to dispose of, better to use than simply abuse. If you need a thing done right – an elder assumes – you get an ancilla to do it. Never mind that a wise ancilla has lived long enough to know her best bet is to pass along her duties to a neonate to keep her own skin from the fire.
Sometimes, we beasts last a long time. Forever maybe, or so it seems to those of us who reach these impossible ages. Most vampires grudgingly agree to call a vampire three hundred years or more an elder, though as with any claim of age, manifestation of great power is more important than documentation and years gone by. I know a lad I’ve got centuries on who most call elder because he’s better than I am at throwing around his potency and creating an air of terror and authority. Not so much for this old bird though. Still, an elder is a terrible thing, a vampire of centuries who must have killed dozens or hundreds of times. Do not think for a second that you are a special exception to them.
Due to my advanced years and incredible patience, I have myself once met a Methuselah. The encounters are always hair raising, with palpable fear. These monsters are a thousand years or more, and are barely human in their way of thinking. They are clever, ancient, and willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want. At that age, few things can stop them from their desires. Do whatever you can, my little fawn, to never be between a Methuselah and what he wants. Or worse, never be the thing a Methuselah wants. A Methuselah’s powers are unknowable, and often only rumored. Do not cross one. And should they cross you, flee just so fast as you can.
Lastly, we have the Antediluvians, those Damned grandchilder of our mythical founder. If they are real –and that I cannot say– they would be thousands of years old. They exist, so far as I can tell, only in stories and those stories are as varied as the clans. Each one is said to have founded one of the thirteen clans, though there may be more or less of them now thanks to ancient blood feuds and betrayal. We hear rumors of other clans from other parts of the world which throws our understanding to the winds. Sometimes they are said to be all dead. Sometimes they are said to sleep eternally, exhausted by their own age to wake at the end of nights. Sometimes they are said to be awake and about, pulling all our puppet strings in a war as ancient as mankind’s birth.
Clans Both High and Low
Aye? I’ve said a word you don’t well know, and so let me explain. We are all of us, reborn into these nights according to the whims of our sires and perhaps, the will of our sire’s elders. As with humanity, how we were reborn, and to whom, as well as where and when can matter more than a lifetime of right unliving. Much of your eternity was decided for you, by the actions of your sire and his ancestors before him, long before your heartbeat for the first time, never mind when it beat for the last. And it is these sins before you that color all your nights before you. Let me explain.
You are not just your sire’s childe. Sadly, you’ve got generations upon generations of sinners to answer for. We come from families, all of us, you and I and that Prince in her tower. These families, round about thirteen in number, each manifest Damnation in special ways. We’ve a family of mangled peasants like your grandmother Penne here, and a family of kings and lords so high above the lot of us we cannot even see their feet. The Curse gives each family a way of survival. To further the example, my accursed blood was granted the ability to hide from sight so as not to frighten my prey. The family of kings and lords can put a command in your mind and compel you with raw strength of will to do as you’re told. There is a family of serpents that can make you love them with a smile and a gesture. There’s also a family of roving beasts who can sleep in soil and turn into bats. The list goes on.
These are clans. Matters of clan, and therefore matters of family, will go on to fill your nights worries for the rest of your unlife. There is no escaping the impulses and weaknesses of your clan, let alone release from paying for the sins and sometimes reaping the benefits of your cousins and siblings within your city and outside of it. Your clan is as much the shackle that punishes you during your damnation as it is the freedom and power you wield and the politics you will have to dance around forever.
Crowns and Beggars
You’re born into a family, and you take the lump that come with it, aye? So too, you die into a clan, and with it, comes centuries of weight trial and sin, as I’ve said. In general, we see clans as High or Low, depending on who’s in charge of the city, what the history is, and who’s done the most wrong and been caught in recent memory.
A High Clan’s got voice in society, the church, and most importantly, in the Prince’s Court. They have rights granted to them without earning them. They bear privileges just by virtue of being murdered into a lineage. For the Low Clans, it’s different. While we might be able to earn a place as individuals —and won won’t that place be a sad dirty place— our clan as a whole always starts off on the bottom rung with plenty stepping on us to get up higher.
Usually, who is considered High and who is considered Low becomes a tradition in an area. We’ve long had Clan Ventrue on top here in London thanks to the Romans. And thanks to the Celts, my Clan Nosferatu has long been a Low Clan. I think even if I was crowned Prince tomorrow, and the city filled with my Childer, we’d still be a Low Clan because it has so long been true in London.
There’s no universal truth as to what Clans are High or Low. There are trends by region, but ultimately, a city’s Court determines which clans are clans of standing and importance, and which are less. I’m told it can change in the blink of an eye if a court is totally disrupted, but I’ve never seen it happen first hand, or known anyone who has seen it first hand. Fact is, there tends to be reasons why the High and Low is what it is, and each city has it’s own justification for those positions.
I know, my little love, I see that sadness in your eyes as you soak in what I have to tell you. Damnation and sin and murder all around you, so you ask yourself ‘how will I hold on and not go mad in the process?’ Let Grandmother Penne give you a little bit of hope, then. While the majority of the Damned spiral down and burn up in the first ten years or so, there are those of us who hang on to who we are or what we someday hope to become, and find a sort of spiritual map to guide us away from total control of the Beast and the oblivion that promises. These maps are highly personal, but there are certain schools of thinking that are followed with their own guidelines for what makes a smart vampire, or at least what makes a moral one. We call these Roads, and they vary from the familiar to the inconceivable.
Your grandmother is what they call a Prodigal, because I follow a Road very similar to my morals in life. There are those whose morals align themselves with the rights of gentry and kings, or those who follow Roads that seek knowledge above all else. I know a Gangrel barbarian of considerable age who functions, thrives even, by following a Road that makes peace with the Beast rather than holding it at bay. I have seen it works, even if I cannot fathom it myself. There are dark Roads, and Roads practiced by people from cultures so far from what even I know that they seem alien, but we must be careful what we label evil when it comes to surviving the night. Evil is highly subjective when it comes to a culture of murderers, and sometimes, anything that helps you hold on another night is worth almost any cost.
Your sire has told you that there are laws we have that cannot be broken, hasn’t he? That’s good. You walk with me, and I’ll tell you all about our laws, what we call the Traditions. To most vampires, they are things tossed at you by your sire a few times and then remembered only when you’ve violated them. Which is why most vampires don’t survive their first decade. You are lucky, because Grandmother Penne will tell not only what they are, but why they are what they are. This will give you an edge, and when staring down the Sheriff’s stake in the middle of a court meaning to bury you, any edge is a thing worth having.
See here, love, in my modest library, we’ve the words of Caine and others, written by a dozen hands. They are the Traditions, but which ones, wonder, are the right ones?
The First Tradition: The Covenant
‘Thy blood makes thee my brood, crafted in my image. My curse thine, my salvation thine. I stand before and above thee as god-regent. I am the way, my Traditions covenant. Renounce me and Renounce all hope.’ Thus spoke Caine. – The God-Regent Translations
The blood of the Betrayer flows through you, making you in His image. You are cursed, and it is only through obedience that you survive. You are the Betrayer’s kind, and are bound by these, God’s laws for you. – The Qaanoon, collected by Duras the Dacian
Don’t we all need to know where we come from, aye? This Tradition, more than any other, establishes for us from whence we came and who’s got the power night to night. In my part of the world, it’s well known that Caine, the first murderer, was also the first of us, and all power as well as all curses flow directly from him. Why’s this matter? Maybe not much to you, but this Tradition is how most Princes establish their authority. Caine tells us, in most translations, that those closest to him are those with the most authority, and so age is the right of authority. It’s a simple ideas and works well enough until you consider the oldest vampire in a city may not be the most willing to rule, or able, and those who take power may use their age to hold a rule they cannot manage.
From these scrolls, as well as travelers who’ve come to sit down with me, I have come to realize that not all vampires see Caine as the first of us. I’ve heard our creation myth tied to Babylonian gods, Lilith, a cursed African hero, and even those who believe there is no First, or at least, no single First. I cannot imagine how their elders take advantage of these beliefs, but I’m sure that they do.
The Second Tradition: The Domain
“As I am master of Nod, thy domain is thine own concern. Thou art its master, and all will respect this or suffer thy wrath. All will present themselves when entering, and thou shall protect them in turn. By right, thou art allowed to hunt within the bounds of thy domain, its blood thine own. Accept its responsibility, minister thy domain and pay others the same respect thou expect.” Thus spoke Caine. – The God-Regent Translations
The herd and the land that they inhabit are the domain. If you can keep it, it is yours. If you can take it, it becomes yours. If you can do neither, you submit to those who can and call them elder. – The Ways of Hibernia, as translated by Duras the Dacian
The territory where you bed down, and where you can feed, are the night to night affairs of all of us, and at least so far as I’m concerned, the most important politics you can stick your nose into. Often, and due to the Covenant, a Prince declares a city as his domain alone, and his ability to hold and maintain that domain is the reality behind his power base. Age be damned, if he cannot maintain his city, he will lose it.
But that’s not to say you will starve. A Prince also knows well that he can claim a city as his domain, but he must divvy up its management as well as provide feeding rights to his subjects. Some cities, like my fine London, are divided up into fiefdoms under the Prince Regent, with his favored friends and childer holding domain over these fiefdoms. From there, the likes of you and me beg for scraps and hope we can get permission to feed in one or another of these smaller domains, but it’s an alternative to rule only by one Prince, and so I’ll take it. I’m told some cities operate differently, with large neutral areas where anyone can feed. I’ve also heard that Paradise is full of singing babies and clouds, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
The Third Tradition: The Progeny
“Thou shalt only sire another with the permission and blessing of thine elder. To create is the providence of those closest to me, for they shall be accountable. Break this, and both thee and thy progeny shall be slain.” Thus spoke Caine. – The God-Regent Translations
Creation is a sacrament, and one not celebrated lightly. One obtains the advice and guidance of ones foremothers and sisters. To celebrate the sacrament without such blessings is to blaspheme and forfeit all that the Mother has given you. – Traditsiya, as collected by Duras the Dacian
Just as it is with mortals, aye? Everyone is so very concerned with who is whose heir and who has the right to leave heirs. The struggles of Kings and Emperors is not so different than the struggles of we, the damned. Is there a spiritual aspect to this particular Tradition? Oh, I’m not the one to ask that, but could be. To me, the Third Tradition is a practical and pragmatic one. If we could all run about Embracing and making ours every pretty lad who turned our eye we’d make a great many mistakes in the process. And to the elders, of course, who they let embrace and who they refuse helps to stack the city and the Court with vampires in debt to them
Though the wording in many translations suggest that sire and childer are destroyed, this is not actually a common practice from my understanding. I have myself been wetnurse to a childer whose sire was destroyed for an illegal Embrace. How often does the Prince say things like, ‘well, I could have destroyed you, you exist by my benevolence. Serve me loyally and live.’ I’ve seen the reverse as well, sadly, an unwanted childe destroyed in secret before word can reach court and a vampire in good standing is forgiven the slight since the ‘problem’ no longer exists. Once, I took such a childe in as my own, claimed her, and she lives quite happily here to this night, but that’s a risky claim to make for sure.
The Fourth Tradition: The Accounting
Those thou create are thine own blood until release from thy charge. Until that moment, their sins, their blood and their punishments are thine.” Thus spoke Caine. – The God-Regent Translation
What you create is yours and your blood. Their blood and their punishment is yours. – Folk Traditions of the Etruscan Tribes, collected by Duras the Dacian
I will admit, of any of the Traditions, this is the one that perplexes me the most. From a purely selfish beast point of view, why this practice would become so common is beyond me. If there’s a Tradition with a humane or maybe divine source, it would be this one. In essence, the Fourth Tradition makes a sire accountable for who they have Embraced. While that will of course result in some abuse of these whelps, it also means that the sire must be wise in their actions, their education, and in some ways, reminds them that the other vampires of their city are watching what they choose to do. Creating a child and destroying it before it can be released is suspect behavior to be sure.
I have seen this Tradition used as grounds for punishing a vampire who has created a wayward ghoul, though it not a popular political maneuver, it can be argued effectively in many courts. Sometimes, being a touch litigious comes in handy.
The Fifth Tradition: Destruction
Forbidden art thou to spill the blood of another of thy kind who is elder. This right belongs only to the closest to me and none other. It is forbidden for those of weaker blood to rise against their elders. This is my final covenant.” Thus spoke Caine. – The God-Regent Translations
Do not spill blood, for it is precious. All blood, no matter the source, must be used and useful, blood in the soil is an unforgivable waste. – The Lost Traditions of Phoenicia, collected by Duras the Dacian
Do I surely need to spell this out for you, love? I think you’re clever enough to see what is written all over this particular Tradition. We are all told that killing other vampire is wrong. I can understand the wisdom of that, aye? Most would agree that killing your own stains your soul, no matter the reasons you take your own, and most people have rules or laws about to remind them all that no matter how irritating or troublesome your neighbor might be, taking a hoe to his head is a foul act. Perhaps with vampires, we need a stronger reminder, as the Beast drives us to kill anything and everything we can.
Where the common translations of the Tradition take an interesting twist, I’d say, is how Caine tells us that the real crime is in the young killing the old. As ‘the old’ I would prefer not to be killed by the young, but among people with no natural death by old age, that makes for quite the downward pressure from above, aye?
I showed you a variant wording of the Tradition there, an ancient one, that focused on the waste of The Blood. Talking to greater experts on this, scholars, I understand that this is not an isolated reading of this Tradition. Any means to preserve the blood, not killing, retaining the blood in other ways, darker ways. And cultures travel. The Phoenicians, for example, may have brought their dark interpretations to Spain.
The Sixth Tradition: The Silence of the Blood
“Never shalt thou reveal thy true nature to those not of the blood. Doing so shall renounce thy claims to my covenants.” Thus spoke Caine. – The God-Regent Translation
Do not reveal your nature. – The Traditions of Mali Empire, as translated by Duras the Dacian
It makes you wonder what happens to lose Caine’s covenants? Well. Salvation, obviously if you’ve been following me thus far. I imagine if you believe that sort of thing, it’s a terrifying premise. An endless eternity with no hope for redemption, because if you want anyone’s forgiveness, you surely want the forgiveness of the first murderer, right?
A more immediate concern, though, is what your elder things is the consequence of being denied Caine’s covenants. In many cities, this puts you outside of the protection of the Fifth Tradition and so, revealing your nature to mortals or whatever lurks in the shadows of the night, means anyone with the fangs to do it can bring you down. Usually, a Prince will still expect to reside over some kind of court to determine how much you revealed, but not always.
Outside of places where the Traditions rest on Caine’s commands? I cannot myself say for sure, but I know this, intent is everything, hunters of the Church are almost everywhere, and no matter how you practice the Tradition, letting out our secrets gets us killed. A wise leader, or a selfish one, no matter their religious beliefs, knows that.
No matter what it may look like from the outside, there are not two cities in the world that operate in the same ways. While there exist some common themes, they flesh out in the same way. And even these commonalities are only so common by region. I’m told when you move out of Christendom, none of these title apply, and even stepping back in time two centuries, you wouldn’t see any cities operate in the way they do these nights. I wonder what we’ll see in two hundred years from now. Assuming any of us are left when the Prince’s War is over, of course.
In my London and in many of the cities that neighbor the area we are ruled a Prince Regent, a vampire of considerable age and power who rules the lot of us with as tight a fist as he can get away with. Tradition, and the Traditions say that the Prince ought to be the eldest of all the vampires in a city. I suppose the idea is that the oldest is the closest to Caine, the most powerful, and therefore the most fit to rule. Even in traditional cities like London, the Prince is rarely the actual eldest Cainite. Current, the city is under sway of eldest’s childer, she rules as he devotes himself to esoteric studies. He can’t be bothered. Truth be told, if we practiced closer to Caine’s intent, the city would be chaos. The true eldest lost his mind some fifty years back or more.
There is a value in having the oldest, most horrific monster amongst you as the figure head of the city. The Prince has a target on their head most of the time and it is best that to hold the position and rule for long, you appear indestructible. Otherwise, you face a short life constantly under constant attack by youthful vampires hoping steal your power, elders disgusted with your petulance, other Princes bent on expanding their regency, and who knows what else.
According to my friend the Greek, Athens is not ruled by a Prince. They have long practiced a form of classical democracy in which vampires who control domain may vote for one of three Triumvirate members. The cities unusually large vampire population is a thing that constantly strains order in the system, as so it does them best to allow the average vampire to feel as if they are a part of the process and a part of the status quo.
Sometimes I think that the Keeper is meant to die.
Their job seems simple, to keep and maintain the Elysium through the city. That is, places of peace where vampires may gather and show our teeth to one another without biting. Suffice to say, these places are tinder on top of coal. Any place where two or more vampires meet you will have the potential for violence. That may well be violence by the knife or word or deed.
There’s expected to be a cultural aspect to it. In those rare cases where a Keeper is good at her job, it is because she has an eye for architecture and art as well as security and secrecy. She’s expected to find places that are aesthetically pleasing, stimulating, and occasionally even finds herself responsible for providing entertainment. Or to put it another way, she provides a distraction from the backbiting if you ask me.
And it’s to the Keeper to keep the peace, protect the Elysium, and prevent vampire doings from spilling out and giving up the secrets of the blood. It isn’t simply Herculean; it’s downright impossible. A clever thing, really, to give a position of prestige and power to an enemy you want close, then watch him crumble under the weight of it. The late Prince of London offered me the position once. Once.
My companion in Warsaw, an odd paranoid old bird, told me that ‘keeping’ Elysium in her city is the duty of neonates. They’re expected as a group to maintain the places physically and in terms of security. That communal tie must build strong alliances while weeding out the weak. “They all stand, or they all fall,” she said.
Beside the Prince, at least, beside the wise Prince is his Chamberlain. If the Prince is a force of might and power, than the Chamberlain is finesse. If the Prince is above the mud and stain, granted his position by power, age, and God, then the Chamberlain has dirt under her fingers like the rest of us.
In London and the surrounding areas, only the most formidable elders speak to the Prince. Even if the matter is of the most importance, you can’t get near the Crowned Head. Instead, you better hope you can catch a second of the Chamberlain’s time. She’s the one who knows names, knows sires, knows territories, and if you’re very lucky, knows why what you’ve got to say matters. She’s in the thick of it, and it’s easy to assume that she’s the real power in a Domain.
And she may well be. I know of a Chamberlain in Ireland who has carefully maintained her power base through seven different Princes. When the Prince begins to reach for too much power, she simply arranges for rebellion then overthrow. Then, she returns to her job. It’s a pretty thing, so long as you’re her or her people.
I’m told that in Paris, the Court’s so large and the Prince’s Domain so populous that he has a small fleet of Chamberlains that handle different matters each. A fine job he must have, with so many hands handling things for him. Poor Grandmother Penne can’t even get a flea to do her bidding, but then, I’m no Prince.
Once, maybe two hundred years ago or more, your good Grandmother Penne spent a while as the Prince’s Sheriff. In London, that mostly entails having a full understanding of the complicated common laws that make the London Domain what it is. I spent many a night arguing law and procedure with the rabble as well as the Lords in hopes of keeping the peace and protecting the Domain from chaos and lawlessness. Every now and again I’d be called in to break up a row, but that was rare. The Prince of London’s got himself some petty criminals and thugs dressed up as Knights that do his bloody deeds. That was never the Sheriff’s job here.
I’m told this is not always the case. Sometime a leader of a Domain will look out at her court, see among her courtiers a brute or a savage or a swaggering tough itching for a fight. If she is wise, she will give that vampire a job breaking necks and spilling blood in a legitimate way. Sometimes that job is called Sheriff, but not always.
Sheriffs, like Chamberlains, can sometimes outlive Princes and I’ve even heard stories of bloodless revolutions where Prince and Sheriff arranged for a switching of titles and duties. Though I don’t imagine the former Prince-come-Sheriff lasted so long in that city.
In almost any Domain, the Sheriff is most likely to have his own territory and private hunting grounds. Even over the Chamberlain.
Once, I talked with a Mongolian silk trade, a hardy type to travel so far while Damned as he did. He told me that in his court, the council of Elders had their own Sheriff, in counterpoint to the Prince’s. He has his own words for all of this, mind, and assured me the functions were different, but that ultimately the Sheriffs were charged with looking after the interests of the Elders or the Prince, respectively, an striking a balance to keep peace was their thankless duty.
Harpies, Scourges, and Others
Each Domain has needs unlike any other. In smaller Domains without so many of us lurking about, a city position might do the work of two or three positions on a place like London or Paris, and some cities have needs so unique that the positions they make are like no other. Let me think if I can remember some.
London’s Own Rat Catcher: We remember a time when the Romans brought a dole to the humans of London, and we uphold that tradition ourselves. So London’s got a rat catcher whose duty it is to heard rats, see them eatable, and corralled in cisterns where London’s unfortunate vampires can take their fill.
Quanzhou’s Murder of Harpies: In small Domains, rumors and gossip move naturally from vampire to vampire. Or maybe the Chamberland makes himself busy making sure the right people hear the right stories. In cities with incredible populations, like Quanzhou far east of here, I hear that the court elects a group of socially deadly gossips to maintain social order. It’s a brutal business, sure as anything.
Free Lances and Scourges: Rough and rowdy, a pack of savage dogs no matter what you call them or who pays for their services. Most cities have a crew of no-good and brazen bloodmongers who gain favor and wealth beating, harassing, and maybe even killing whoever they’re paid to. Of these sorts, there’s a rare but not unknown special kind of murderer. In London, we call her the Scourge and she moves at the Prince’s secret behest. We see no movement, no message, no evidence left behind. We just know that sometimes, an enemy of the Prince simply vanishes. We guess the Scourge, but really, no way of knowing. Mostly, she seems to handle the chores that can’t be handled in public. When the Prince needs too much out of his own stables, she’s the one disposing of the shite. By the time a blood hunt has been called, she’s already reported the death to the Prince. Always in secret, always.
Meeting of Elders
No matter the Prince, or how the court is set up, if there are old monsters in your home, they will meet. And rest assured, there are old monsters in your home, wherever you live. When word gets back to London town about great sweeping changes in a city or even a region, know that old monsters met in the hoary darkness and either struck a deal or declared war.
Sometimes, the Elders in a city meet formally, with acknowledgment or even recognition of the Domain. These Elders may act as a governing body on their own, support the current Domain, or act as vassals in a line of lieges and lords.
Sometimes, these groupings are only does in secret, even forbidden by the Prince, though he would have to be a singularly powerful creature to make that sort of demand. I’m told that in the Holy Land, there is a Regent-Prince so powerful and unknowable that he declared no vampire past his hundredth year in death can ever meet with another of that age and beyond. That if two Elders find themselves in the same place, one must flee or both die. What’s most frightening is to think that this law is somehow enforced. I shudder to think of how.
Tales of Damnation
Aye, where did we come from? Perhaps the most painful question for any of us to ask, and here you are, cheeks red with blood, and you ask it so innocently.
The truth is, we may never truly know. I can tell you only what stories are told, and treated as gospel inside Christendom. Outside of that, the stories are different. As you go about your unlife, you will likely be surrounded by those who believe the story of the First Murder, Always question, my little bird. Always.
Brother Slays Brother
I am supposed to tell you that the first vampire and the first biblical murderer are one in the same. And that’s how it’s told anywhere the bible is read, even in those places controlled by the Hebrew tribes and even parts of Arabia.
It’s a sad, long story where one brother grows jealous of another, or does not know how to make his father happy, and so he slays his brother in frustration. Or else, out of fear of his terrible father. Depending on what translation you read.
You do read… don’t you bird?
From there, he his either cursed for his wrong doing, or is transformed by the supreme feeling of loneliness left by his brother’s death, and becomes the Dark Father of all of us. From there he wanders, and suffers, and meets many strange and terrible beings, and many awesome beings. While he wandered, he made Childer. The First Generation of the Damned, if you believe the stories. They say he sleeps now, and soon, at the end of the world, he’ll rise again to destroy what he created.
Out of love.
What’s what mean, Generation? I say it with a serious weight, don’t I? Well, perhaps even more than age, or at least, along with age, it is a measure of the strength of your blood.
Or like the common of us tend to think, your Generation is the thickness of your blood and the strength of your Beast.
Traditionally, we count Generation from Caine and his first direct set of childer. Then their childer, and their grandchilder and so on. But, it’s just a number, when you get right down to it.
I’ve heard that given enough age, the blood thickens, no matter how close to Caine your sire was, you can grow to have blood like ice and a beast as terrible as a burning, lightless sun. This of course is rumor and here say, nothing to concern yourself with too greatly.
There is, I’m afraid, one way that your blood may be thickened, but it a terrible, and unforgivable sin. If we are sin in flesh, than this is the thing that even the most wicked of us shies from. I would not tell you about it, I dread to say the word out loud, but it is vital you know about it so that you remain very careful who you let close to you and when.
This most vile act we call the Amaranth, and is to drink the blood of another vampire. But not just his blood, the whole of him, even down to his soul. To drink his soul and destroy all that he ever was so that you can rob him of his power and increase your own. Make no mistake, it is not a thing you can do by accident, and even if you found yourself needing to drain another of your kind to unconsciousness, there is still a chance to turn back and leave him in torpor or ashes. Which is better than the alternative. Believe me. If you so will it, if you push, through your mind and sanity resist, it is possible to complete the act, but never by accident.
It thickens the blood. It strengthens the beast. It may give you powers the likes of which you’ve never dreamed, but what it does to you is irreversible.
And what we do to you if we find out is very simple. We destroy you.
Understanding the Generations
A Generation isn’t just a measure of potency and age, nothing is ever that simple with the likes of us. No, Generation also confers a sort of position and in some cases, a title and a whole set of assumptions to go along with that title.
The childer of Caine are the Second Generation, if you follow the God-Regent translation of the Book of Nod. Most stories say there were only three direct childer of Caine, them that he made to live with him in the great city of Enoch before the flood. One, they say, was an impossibly beautiful woman, and the others are up for debate. Wiser minds than mine look back over the history and assume that these first childer and Second Generation were destroyed in the flood right along with Enoch. Because if not, they would be creatures of incredible age and strength. If you believe that the world will end when Caine and the Antediluvians rise from slumber to fight, you have to wonder, what would the Second Generation, Caine’s closest childer, do should any of them have survived? Common wisdom is that the childer of the Second Generation went on to form the clans as we are now. Though there are those of us who make claims that their lineage and clan comes from the second and not the third generation.
Once the childer of Caine began to Embrace, Enoch must have become one very large very dangerous family drama, The Third Generation, they say, is the start of us, the start of the thirteen clans of vampires. We hear in stories that the first thing the Antediluvians did was get into blood feuds with each other and wrestle one another for power. There was killing, mayhem, and maybe the first cases of Final Death and the Amaranth in the streets of Enoch. Is it any wonder we fear them, when so many of the stories are of powerful madmen who seem to know only war and destruction? If the end of nights is the rise of these monsters, the Antediluvians, then those nights will be beyond terrible.
We don’t know how many remain tonight. We only know that their touch is present in every trouble and strife any vampire feels anywhere in the world. Is your sire cruel to you? He was probably made that way as a part of a grand scheme by an ancient that none of us will ever fully fathom. Did your Prince suddenly declare open war with a Prince nearby who had yet been her ally for a century? You can guess that’s because an Antediluvian made it be so. They meddle and they interfere and they manipulate out of a need for power and to perhaps, to destroy one another.
I’m told that the myth of Golconda comes from these beings. That if there are any who are seeking redemption and found it, it is likely that they are Antediluvians. I don’t know if I believe it, and more, even if they did, it makes no difference, since they’ll still wage the wars of the ancients if only to keep the world out of the hands of their more horrific kin. I’m a pawn and disposable no matter how warm hearted and blessed my master may be. I don’t assume any of these beings, if they are real, even approach human understanding any more. Gets harder for me, night by night, and I’m still in the thick of it without the eons they have suffered through.
Fourth and Fifth Generation
If we are barely pawns in the games the Antediluvians play, the Fourth and Fifth Generation are the Knights. Useful, powerful, maneuverable, the most potent and dangerous holders of domain in Christendom come from these Generations, and we call them Methuselahs. In Arabia, they have another name, and so I understand, do they in the distant East. Because they are the most powerful waking monster any of us should hope to see, their power and their lives are under constant threat. Of course, we’re barely more than gnats compared to the Methuselahs, and so there is a strange balance between power and those what would eat up that power and make it their own. I think it is the Methuselah who started and maintain the War of Princes, but that’s only because one told me so.
Sixth and Seventh Generation
These, my dove, are your elders, and you should steer clear of us whenever you can. While the rare Methuselah may rule the large and ancient city, most domains belong to the Sixth or Seventh Generation. Remember dove that even now, I may be your enemy, because I am old and I am hungry in ways you cannot yet imagine. Stay on my good side, stay away from me, or else stay on your guard in my company.
Remember also, that many of us at a certain age and a certain potency of blood can no longer sate ourselves on the blood of the living. For us, the only way to satisfy the hunger is to feed on you. For the eldest, sometimes it is the vampire that is prey. If you find one of us has suddenly become overly kind to you and yours, it may be she is grooming a new herd. Then again, you don’t put your cattle on the front lines, so maybe there are worst ways to be used by the elders.
Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Generation
Who doesn’t love an upstart, aye? These monsters may well be your sires, and they are lean and hungry. They have been around long enough that they’ve seen the way the world works, but don’t have the age and thickness of the blood necessary to rule. Though from every ancilla I have ever met, they seem to think they all have some greater better way. There is not vampire in all the world more deserving of power and position than whatever ancilla you happen to be talking to. That said, recall that most of them are young enough to remember being human, and may come close to your way of thinking. If anyone can intercede on your behalf against the dangers of the night, he may be an ancilla. This is until he turns around and uses you against an elder he hopes to usurp, of course.
Eleventh and Twelfth Generation
These are your kin and your rivals, my dove, and there are a great number of them. Is should say that the young, the neonate, outnumber the elder by at least 3 to 1, and that’s liable to increase as we make more and more to struggle and die against the countless neonates being created by the our enemies. If you make it ten years, it will be a miracle, but you have things we don’t have. You have numbers. You have strong intimate ties with humanity as well as your own morality. Maybe you still have your faith or your wealth or your ability to travel. All in all, we make you because we need you, and don’t let any other older vampire tell you otherwise.
It is possible, I’m told, for the youngest of us to create a vampire themselves, but it is rare as few of you have the strength to do the act, physical or political. Without the physical power, the victim simply dies. Without the political power, some angry elder kills you both for the having the audacity.
We don’t tend to bother counting Generation after 12th, as anything further removed from Caine can scarcely be called a vampire at all. Tragic wretches, one and all. We call them Thin Blooded and watch for signs they need to be put down.
Signs like reaching their final frenzy, or what we often call, the Wassail. When a vampire entirely loses themselves to the Beast, when the man or woman the once were is gone forever, there is one final frenzy as the Beast seeks to destroy as much and as fast as it can manage. The vampire becomes a raw force of destruction, and in that time, becomes more powerful and dangerous than they could imagine before they kill and eat and kill and eat and nothing else.
There is no reasoning with the Beast in this form. There is probably no return. We put these plagued animals down as soon as we find them, that is the only sure way to stop the destruction.
Of course, your Grandmother Penne has heard of a monster in the cold north woods that is a vampire in a constant state of frenzy. It is old and powerful and can seem to plan and reason. It chooses its battles to ensure its survival. Is this what comes of a long time wassail, or a unique expression of the Beast? Who can say? I don’t go into the woods. Ever.
And so what’s the end of your story? Murdered by a fellow? Soul eaten by a nemesis? Become a wild animal to be put down? Fall asleep and never wake?
Maybe there’s another way. Here, I’ll speak softly as there are those vampires who don’t care for these things to ever be discussed.
The story goes that you can make peace with your Beast. That you can find a balance between animal and human, and it grants you a state of beautification. You becomes like a saint among us. You retain your dark powers, but the sun no longer kills. You do not need the blood of others to survive. You cannot be stopped by a stake through the heart.
Those of us who go looking for the blessed state of Golconda likely die in the process of looking. Further, it is possible that the Antediluvians themselves have the secret and seek to keep it from the likes of you and I. So even if you did reach such a blessed state, be assured, you’d be hunted until you were ash.
But maybe it’s worth it, even if you only have a moment of peace before the Final Death, aye?
Enemies and Mysteries
I am not your enemy unless I have reason to be. So it is with any vampire. Well and true, we are meant to be like-minded with each other, even as we are territorial and violent. Even as we are a touch cannibalistic we are still first nepotistic.
We are not your only threats and knowing us and of us is not the only mystery to unravel in these dark nights.
If you want my honest opinion why it’s so difficult to be a vampire in these violent and fiery nights, blame the Cathars. There have always been hunters, humans foolish enough to think that they have right and virtue to put us to ash. Then again, being damned, they have a point. The problem is not that sometimes humans find us and want to kill us. The real problem is that now they can gather and unify under Papal decree. They can use torture and murder to root us out. They can burn whole villages to the ground to get at just one of us. And they will. But somehow we’re the monsters.
Here is what I know about the Lupines. Don’t go into the woods unless you’ve made peace with your maker. Lupines are roving packs of wild men that can transform to wolves and rip you to ashes, so they are described. I have never seen one, but a beloved Gangrel friend of mine assures me that I have met a few. He says when they are in the cities, hunting for mates and the unclean, they are impossible to tell from humans. This is, until you bite them and they turn into towering monsters and destroy you. They’re wolves in lambs’ skins.
Is there a thing more and wretched than us, then it is the witches and warlocks of this dark time. Your Grandmother can remember a time when those rare humans with magical powers were revered instead of feared. In those days, they lived and were worshipped as servants of gods, if not gods themselves. Like us, they have since been chased into the shadows of humanity, living as a shallow echo of their past glory, fearing the stake and the Inquisitor like us. Unlike us, though, they have only one miserable lifetime to suffer. Unlike us, they cannot hope to survive to wiser more worldly times. Don’t assume them automatic allies against the Cross, my love, because they’re greedy for your life and the power in your blood. They will used you in pieces and parts if you don’t use them first.
Now you’ll think this old woman mad, but the hours wear on and I think my guard is low enough to tell you about the other things that lurk in the brambles and the thorns. Living in this world and also outside this world are the Others. The Shining Ones whose name you should never speak aloud. They are wild nature embodied, and unknowable to us. They are our opposites in every way, and you do not want to mix with them.
I have told you that you will kill, if you have not already. And when you kill, sometimes the soul of those you’ve slain will not cross over the judgment. They will linger, to torture you, to finish their lives’ works, to protect their loved ones, or out of sheer malice and rage. Whatever the reason, ghosts are as real as you and I, and you will cause of more than one before your Final Death. And believe me when I tell you, ever there was a ghost who was upfront about the cause of their torment. They are no simple puzzles to unfold and destroy, no matter what our Roman cousins might tell us.
Deeper Mysteries Still
Here now, I’ll tell you that these are not the only things that share the night with you. Danger and excitement are around every corner, if you go looking for it or not. Dig deep enough in the ground, look to the trees and the deepest wood, under the Holy See or in your local crypt know that there are deeper mysteries than the likes of me hopes ever to experience.
Dig, and you’ll find something. Always.
Amaranth, the: The act of drinking the heartsblood or soul of another Kindred. Debatable in its ethics, effective as a means to greatly increase vampiric power instantly.
ancilla (pl. ancillae): A middling aged vampire usually somewhere around 10th and 11th generation though age is a more important indicator. Tend to be between 100 and 200 years old and hungry for power.
Antediluvian: Vampires of the third generation. Unknowable and perhaps only myth, the secret motivations behind the War of Princes is often attributed to the Antediluvians.
Beast, the: The tangible manifestation of a vampires Damnation. The hungry monster that lives in her skin and drives her to hunt, kill and frenzy.
Becoming, the: Either a term for a vampire’s Embrace, or the agonizing period just after the Embrace as the human dies and the vampire is born.
Bitter Crusade, the: Events surrounding the Fourth Crusade, which bring about the end of the Long Night.
Blood Oath, the: The bond of blood that enslaves one that’s drank from Cainite vitae.
Book of Nod, The: An often-translated text purported to tell the story of the first vampire. Many translations exist, none agree on every detail.
Cainite: A vampire.
Caitiff: A vampire with no claim of clan, or a vampire who was forced out of his clan.
childe: A vampire’s get.
clan: One of 13 great vampire family lines. Each clan has a unique collection of gifts and a unique curse to their blood.
consanguineous: vampires who share a sire. A brother or sister in blood.
coterie: A group of vampires that live and act together for mutual protection.
Damned, the: All vampires in any culture where the Book of Nod is recognized. A society of the dead.
domain: A region of land, industry, weath and herd ruled over by a vampire. A domain can be as large as the vampire that holds it can maintain. Some are only so big as a building or a farm, some are whole sprawing city states.
domitor: A vampire who possesses another via the Blood Oath.
elder: A vampire over the age of two hundred years old.
Embrace, the: The act of killing a person and birthing a vampire.
Erciyes Fragments, the: A known Book of Nod apocrypha, detailing the Cainite creation myth.
fledgling: A freshly Embraced vampire. Traditionally one that has not yet been introduced to Damned society still under her sire’s wing.
Gehenna: The Final Nights when Caine and the Antediluvians will rise and battle each other over the final fate of the world
Generation: How many steps a vampire is from their progenitor. How potent her blood is.
ghoul: A human tool, empowered by and addicted to vampire blood.
Golconda: A state of balance between the Beast and the soul. A vampire at peace with herself.
haven: a safe place a vampire sleeps to escape the ravages of the sun.
kine, the: Humanity. People. Anything not a vampire of a ghoul.
Kiss, the: The act of feeding. The euphoric feeling in kine when bitten by a vampire.
Laibon: African word for Cainite; this term eschews the Caine mythology.
Lextalionis: The Traditions as handed down in the Book of Nod.
lineage: The family line of a vampire tracing back sire to sire.
Long Night, the: The dark, calmer period prior to the War of Princes.
lord: a vampire ruler of a domain.
Lupine: A werewolf.
Methuselah: Vampires of the 5th and 6th generation. The oldest active vampires.
neonate: A vampire under one hundred years old.
Prince: A traditional city ruler, claiming authority over the Traditions.
progenitor: The first vampire. Thought to be Caine in regions where the Book of Nod is accepted as true.
regnant: A vampire in possession of a ghoul.
revenant: Less a vampire, the offspring of a ghoul family that has developed some strange powers themselves.
Road: A way of surviving the ravages of the ages. Vampiric ethics and spiritual guidance. How a vampire justifies the actions he takes.
sire: A vampire who creates another.
Thaumaturgy: Blood magic.
Third Mortal, the: Another name for Caine in Noddist regions.
thrall: A vampire or kine possessed by a vampire through the Blood Oath.
Traditions of Caine, the: The rules allegedly handed down by the progenitor of vampires through the Book of Nod. The wording and meanings of each is hotly contested.
vessel: Most usually, a kine from whom a vampire drinks.
War of Ages, the: The ostensible war between Antediluvians; fought with entire clans, cities, and nations as pawns.
War of Princes, the: The current war for territory and control between provincial lords.
Chapter Two: The Clans of Caine
13:19 The angel spoke thusly. “If the dragon has thirteen heads, do not strike at the neck. If you shouldst remove one head, another shall grow in its place.
13:20 Strike between the heads, then move aside. For they will lash out, and strike itself.
13:21 The dragon cannot regrow a head it itself devours.
The Testament of the Demon Finder of Hattin, Noddist Apocrypha BUT THERE’S PROBABLY AT LEAST ONE SKULL IN THERE SOMEWHERE, BECAUSE THIS IS A DARKER WORLD). ONE SLEEVE HAS FALLEN DOWN, EXPOSING HER FOREARM (WITH ONLY A FEW BRACELETS). SHE’S HOLDING A BIG, CREEPY BOOK. SHE’S WEARING A NETTED VEIL THAT IS BEING DRAWN ASIDE WITH ONE HAND SO SHE CAN READ BETTER. HER SKIN IS TAUT AND ASHY. HER BONES AND SINEWS ARE VISIBLE, BUT HER VEINS ARE NOT. HER FEATURES SUGGEST BOTH PERSIAN AND GRECIAN ANCESTRY: A LONG, STRAIGHT NOSE; THICK, BLACK EYEBROWS; TIGHTLY CURLED BLACK HAIR. HER EYES ARE GREEN AND DARK-CIRCLED. HER CHEEKS ARE SUNKEN.
One creates three. Three create thirteen. The thirteen of the third generation created thirteen clans, which comprise most of what we call Cainite society. While the thirteen clans are far from all vampires, they stand as a stark majority of vampires in the Dark Medieval World of 1242. They are the status quo.
In 1242, what defines “clan” is not so clear as it once was. To most, the Salubri are no longer considered a clan. Yet, they boast clear lineage back to an Antediluvian progenitor named Saulot. However, in 1133, a mob of Tremere sorcerers raided Saulot’s tomb and committed Amaranth upon his corpse. This turned the Tremere into a de facto clan, as their eldest became third generation with the crime. Over the past century, the Tremere have grown in size and prominence, and most Cainites recognize them as a clan, despite their ill-gotten status.
So what constitutes a clan? Ultimately, it comes down to those groups with the gall to call themselves clans, and with the power to shut down any argument against the claim.
High and Low Clans
Cainite society, and indeed Cainites in general, thrive on power differentials. In the Dark Medieval World, this happens through a phenomenon called High and Low Clans. At its core, a given region or city determines which clans are fashionable and aristocratic, while labeling others as less so.
This can vary widely from region to region. While there are recurring trends (for example, the Ventrue and Lasombra are recognized as High Clans most the world around, and usually Nosferatu are recognized as a Low Clan), the rules are far from hard. Often, a region’s ruling Cainite hails from a High Clan. As well, clans who have a history of antagonism in a region are generally seen as Low Clans.
The delineation is also harder in some places than in others. For example, in Cairo, one would not dare insult the Followers of Set. In Cairo, they’re the highest of the High Clans, despite being considered Low Clans in most European courts. Generally when a clan stands as a wide majority in a given region, they’re afforded High Clan status.
In some cities, High Clans derive from some mythological divine right. If a city ascribes to a certain scholar’s interpretation of the Book of Nod, that interpretation might favor certain ruling clans, and herald them as blessed by Caine, God, or some other force (coincidentally, of course).
Members of Low Clans are typically expected to defer to those of High Clan lineage. Traveling Cainites quickly learn to uncover these local traditions immediately upon or before entering a new region.
Lastly, any bloodline not openly boasting genesis in a High Clan is considered a Low Clan, or lower, depending. Exceptions to this rule dwindle by the night, which bodes ill for the waning Salubri.
We are not here to reap the benefits of your hard work, or to take what you so richly deserve. No, if you sow a strong seed, we will not take it. We are here to reap the rotten, the corrupt, and the depraved — those who have been judged unworthy.
Most of Cainite society remains ignorant about the Assamites’ nature and intentions. They view the Assamites as a young clan emerging from the Middle East to take a bold stance in the nightly struggles between Cainites. Only elders and Cainite scholars can describe a time when the Assamites were active members of vampire society, before they retreated into their own studies in Alamut, the clan’s sanctuary in the mountains of Anatolia. European vampires rarely interact with any but the clan’s ambassadors, the Viziers, and a few Sorcerers. The clan presents an organized front with an uncanny ability to communicate over long distances, as well as keep in touch with their brethren in Alamut.
Many Assamites trace their roots back to Persia, where the clan’s founder was born, but members come from all over the Middle East. In recent years, many younger members follow Islamic beliefs. Older ancillae and elders look upon these younger Cainites with disdain, believing that religion distracts from their true purpose. However, the rest of Cainite society mostly interacts with the younger vampires, and the name Assamite has become nearly synonymous with Muslim, earning them the sobriquet Saracens. Many older Assamites are happy to let the other Cainites believe what they want, as long as it allows them to further their own goals.
The Assamites do not refer to themselves as Saracens, preferring instead to be called the Children of Haqim, after their progenitor. Haqim crafted a specific set of rules, which he charged his clan to follow. Cainites are dangerous creatures who meddle too much in the affairs of mortals. The Children of Haqim are charged with respecting their elders, protecting mortals from other Cainites, and judging (and punishing) other Cainites. The Children of Haqim are charged with reclaiming the blood of wasteful Cainites, those who misuse mortals and should not have such gifts. This leads the clan to engage in diablerie as a matter of course, though few adhere strictly to this tenet.
The clan consists of three sects that work together closely to accomplish the goal of judgment. The sorcerers keep the other members of the clan in communication with each other, as well as providing for the clan while at Alamut. The warriors judge vampires and mete out punishment when necessary. The viziers are the public face of the clan, gathering information and keeping the clan informed on politics and current affairs. Most Assamites living within Cainite-held cities are viziers, with a few sorcerers supporting them.
Nickname: Children of Haqim, Saracens
Appearance: Nearly all Assamites are Middle Eastern in appearance, though some Neonates have been Embraced as far west as the Iberian Peninsula. All Assamites are required to spend time in Alamut shortly after Embrace, and most adopt traditional Middle Eastern dress regardless of their origins. Dress between the three sects of the clan varies due to functionality. Sorcerers tend to dress strictly traditional, warriors adopt more comfortable clothes for long sojourns, and viziers sometimes adopt the dress of whatever city they happen to be living in.
Haven: Assamites choose easily defended dwellings away from the eyes of mortals. This is especially true when visiting European domains. They tend to value security over material comforts, favoring a well-defended shack over an exposed estate. Many Assamites choose dwellings outside city centers, but near enough to keep an eye on other vampires and their interactions with the mortal population.
Character Creation: Assamite viziers are both scholars and act as ambassadors, and prefer a mix of both Social and Mental Attributes and Abilities. Most Children of Haqim have at least one dot in Mentor (usually their sire). Some have one or two dots in Generation, due to the practice of diablerizing those who are judged unfit. Many tend to follow the Road of Heaven or Humanity, with a few following the Road of Kings. Many of the older warriors and the more traditional Assamites follow the Road of Blood.
Clan Disciplines: Auspex, Celerity, Quietus
Weakness: Assamite viziers are rigorous to a fault. Each character has an obsession with her highest intellectual or creative Ability, which acts as a derangement. While the derangement is active, the character’s aura glows in a way as to provide hints to the vizier’s true Nature, as well as the object of her obsession, visible to Auspex users.
Organization: Due to the abilities of the sorcerers, Clan Assamite is more intricately organized than most. The clan follows the Eldest, usually the eldest of Haqim’s childer not currently in torpor. Each of the three sects has its own internal leader. The three sects collectively work together to deal with the night-to-night operations of the clan. Each sect’s role is loosely defined by their own interpretations of Haqim’s decrees. The viziers view themselves as judges only, taking the measure of Cainites in the world and alerting their brethren to those who are unfit to retain the blood of Caine. The sorcerers spend their time researching ways to improve interactions and relations with mortals, and play a large part in keeping the three sects in communication at all times. The warriors tend to fill the role of executioner when a Cainite has been judged unworthy, often leading nomadic lives and going where their brethren direct them to fulfill their duties.
Tremere: They do not know what they toy with.
Brujah: They claim to be Philosopher-Kings, yet their passions dictate their actions, leaving little room for actual philosophy.
Cappadocian: As long as their research into death does not somehow leak into the mortal sphere, I see nothing wrong with them.
Gangrel: Probably the least problematic of all the other clans, the Gangrel understand honor. I have yet to judge a Gangrel unfit.
Followers of Set: Heretics, every last one of them. Their debauchery and evil should not be tolerated.
Last night wasn’t the end of times. Tonight is. Every night, wake knowing tonight is the last night ever, and fight to end it a better place. When it doesn’t end, build on that change, and create a more perfect tomorrow. Why? Because tomorrow’s the end of times.
In the First City, the first among the Brujah sought to explore and understand the Cainite condition from as many angles as possible. However, his passion for his existence caused difficulties with his more somber brethren. After the Flood, he sired Troile to counter that passion; where Brujah was prone to fits of rage that set his Beast to roar, Troile was logical, methodical, and calculating.
However, Troile and Brujah disagreed frequently due to their conflicting natures. Finally, Brujah flew into frenzy and attacked Troile. Troile sank his fangs into his sire to drain the fury from his blood, but it only enraged Brujah further. Worse still, Troile continued to drink even after his sire’s veins were dry, consuming Brujah’s soul.
When called to answer for what he had done, Troile listed a litany of reasons based soundly in logic. Troile’s reasoning convinced other Antediluvians that murder was the best course of action to preserve the peace between the descendants of Caine and the children of Seth. Some say this was the first rebellion that sparked the Second City’s fall. However, when Caine returned, he was not convinced. He cursed Troile and his line with the fiery passions of their progenitor, multiplied threefold.
Troile eventually came to Carthage. Longing for the days of the First and Second Cities, he called other Cainites to recreate those times, and was quite successful for a time. Eventually, envy and fear led the Ventrue and Malkavians of Rome to incite the fifty-year battle that destroyed the Brujah utopia, cementing the enmity between the Brujah and the Ventrue for centuries to come. None have seen Troile since, and many assume he met his Final Death during the fall of Carthage.
Nickname: Zealots, Philosopher-Kings, Rabble (derogatory)
Appearance: Depending on the area, the Brujah could be the most influential noble or the most innocuous peasant. No matter where in the world a given Zealot is, they tend to choose physically fit mortals for the Embrace; hardy manual laborers, strong knights, and the like. Where they can, they look for mortals with sound and active minds as well, if only to preserve their intellectual pursuits. However, in areas where conflict with other clans is high, they get less picky about intelligence.
Havens and prey: The Zealots seek out the highest concentrations of people they can, such as cities and major trading villages. Rare is the Brujah who ties himself solely to a small fiefdom to himself. During a fledgling’s tutelage, he often havens with his sire, undergoing physical and mental training. Recently, likeminded Zealots have established communal havens where they argue philosophy and train together. These “packs” provide a unique challenge in self-control.
Backgrounds: Zealots collect their prospective childer from nobility or the clergy to ensure a strong, educated baseline. They especially favor those kine who champion a cause to improve the lot of the people around them, whether through strength of arms or wit and cunning. A few rare exceptions come from the peasant class, namely those with remarkable speed and strength in life.
Character Creation: Brujah can be fierce warriors favoring Physical Attributes, charismatic leaders favoring Social Attributes, or scholars of Cainite history or philosophy favoring Mental Attributes. However, Zealots tend to prize physical prowess, so it rarely comes up as tertiary. The vast majority of Brujah have at least some martial Abilities, either through mortal training or during their initial tutelage as a fledgling. Most possess at least rudimentary Academics and other Knowledges.
Clan Disciplines: Celerity, Potence, Presence
Weakness: The passion that inspires the Brujah from night to night can send them into fits of rage if left unchecked. The difficulties of rolls to resist or guide frenzy are two higher than normal. Additionally, a Brujah may never spend Willpower to avoid frenzy. However, they may spend a point of Willpower to end a frenzy that has already begun.
Organization: With so many causes to, Brujah don’t so much organize as they would hope. Several Zealots find themselves working at cross purposes, spawning rivalries that last for centuries when they don’t explode due to flaring tempers. When several Brujah do work together toward a common goal, only an act of God can dissuade them from their course. A sire and her fledgling childe often operate as one unit while the childe receives proper tutelage. When the childe finds a cause of their own, however, she usually moves on to pursue it.
Baali: Have you ever woken up after a long night, not remembering anything from too much drink, to be sleeping in filth next to the rotting carcass of a sow? Add some more heresy, and then you know the Baali.
Followers of Set: Dead gods are just that. Dead.
Gangrel: They understand the need for the Beast within to come out just as keenly as we, if not more so. It is a shame I see so few of them.
Giovani: I’m sorry, who?
Lasombra: Second-best to the Ventrue, of all clans, is a poor aspiration. Surely they can do better.
Malkavians: Seers? Perhaps. Complicit in letting whatever broken visions appear in their head come to pass? Certainly.
Nosferatu: Useful, but keep them at arm’s length, and not just for the stench.
Salubri: A cautionary tale. The passion of their Warriors put some of my brethren to shame.
Toreador: If they pursued important things like they pursued beauty and decadence, they could rival us in the scope of the changes they could bring about.
Tremere: Many of my blood are strong advocates of change. The Tremere are a clear example when change can go too far.
Ventrue: They call themselves Kings, but so much corruption in the world comes directly from royalty.
“Do my methods unnerve you? They shouldn’t. If you want to find something eternal, you must be prepared to face the cruelties of death.”
CREST: I KIND OF LIKE IT AS-IS, BUT I’M NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHAT THE TEXT ON IT READS AS, THOUGH IT LOOKS SOMETHING LIKE “YOUR DEATH IS MY LIFE ETERNAL?”. IT SHOULD BE: VINCERE MORTEM EST VINCERE OMNIA
To the Cappadocians, death is a mystery to be revered, studied, and ultimately solved. Some seek their answers in dissection and studies of the cadaver. Others commune with the dead or use the clan’s magics to explore the depths of the Underworld. The Cappadocians are the lorekeepers and historians of the Cainites, and they command powerful Necromancy to aid them on their quest for mastery of unlife.
The clan’s founder, Cappadocius, is not eager to share his personal history with his clan, but freely dispenses his wisdom to the clan’s elders. This wisdom has included everything from vague instructions to seek out the mysteries of death to grand visions of underground utopian cities and apocalyptic visions. It is not uncommon for clan members to discuss these visions either in scholarly texts or during their annual meetings at Ericyes.
One of the unique and well-guarded powers of the Cappadocians is the discipline of Necromancy. While many Kindred consider the practice of Necromancy distasteful or even immoral, it is difficult to argue with its power or effectiveness under the right circumstances. Though Cappadocians rarely seek the notoriety of princedom, it is not uncommon to see a Cappadocian as a seneschal or an advisor (such as Chamberlain Camden of London) to a higher political authority.
Appearance: The Cappadocians are a cosmopolitan clan and can be found from the Holy Land to the monasteries of Ireland. They tend toward conservative dress, as many Necromancers were members of religious orders in life. When traveling among mortals, the Clan of Death dresses to conceal or obscure their features. Veils and hooded cloaks are common. More theatrical members of the clan may dress in funerary masks or burial shrouds.
Haven: Like most scholars, the Necromancers tend toward practicality in their feeding and lodging arrangements. The feed from targets of opportunity, and make practical and secure Havens. They are typically not picky about feeding from corpses (or corpses-to-be). A steady supply of corpses for Necromancy is a necessity for many, and urban Necromancers will typically purchase from local collectors.
Background: Mystics, poets, cenobites, and dervishes as well as scholars, magicians, and surgeons are commonly seen among the Necromancers. As a rule, the Cappadocians do not Embrace capriciously. The clan is diverse and cosmopolitan, however, and Necromancers originate from all walks of life. An inquisitive mind and insight into matters of life and death are far more important than mortal breeding, occupation, or influence.
Character Creation: The Clan of Death highly prizes Mental Attributes and Knowledges such as Medicine or Occult. Typically, Physical Attributes come second, with a particular focus on manual skill or Stamina. Rare is the Cappadocian with high Social Attributes, though a sly, manipulative Necromancer could easily take advantage of the fact that most other Kindred do not see the Cappadocians as political rivals.
Many Cappadocians follow the Road of Heaven, viewing their religiosity and morality as a way to achieve knowledge of God and thus triumph over death. Others take a more detached approach and follow the Road of Bones.
Clan Disciplines: Auspex, Fortitude, Necromancy
Weaknesses: The Cappadocian affinity for death is marked indelibly on the visage of its clan members. All Cappadocians appear ashy and corpselike, and are unable to affect the appearance of life like other vampires by spending vitae. This condition becomes more pronounced as the Necromancer ages, with the eldest Cappadocians appearing as mummified corpses. This grim visage presents the Cappadocian with a +2 difficulty on any Social rolls that would be hindered by a corpselike appearance.
Organization: Every year, a grand meeting of the Clan of Death is called at the temple of Ericyes, an ancient city built by order of Cappodocius himself. There, the Necromancers confer with one another and look over the clan’s prized collections of Cainite lore, including the Ericyes Fragments, the most complete version of the Book of Nod. Of course, not all members attend, as travel is hardly practical. This leads to a sense that physical proximity to Erciyes grants additional favor in clan matters.
Individual clan members will also meet less formally at mortal universities or correspond with lengthy letters with each other about scholarly manners in a less formal fashion.
Assamite: Tread lightly. Learn what you canand bend their laws to placate them when you must.
Followers of Set: You have nothing to offer me but a knife in my back. Begone.
Lasombra: There are two types of Lasombra. One is a master of shadow-puppets who rules by lies and chicanery. The other knows the true depths of the Abyss, and his knowledge is dangerous, seductive, and powerful. It is not always easy to tell the difference.
Malkavian: While venturing in the lands beyond, I found a pack of the Dead with terrible twisted claws and eyes blacker than night. They moved as one, and they spoke in chorus the dark wisdom of the Abyss. I have no doubts that those vile creatures wanted nothing but my end. And yet, I find them much more straightforward and useful than attempting to deal with a Malkavian.
Nosferatu: What sort of necromancer would I be if I refused to deal with ugly or foul-smelling things?
Toreador: A grinning skull holds more secrets than a painted face.
Tremere: Impressive, if not commendable.
Ventrue: They are quick to remind us that they are our glorious patrons and protectors, and slow to actually provide us with protection when we’ve needed it most. Perhaps a change is in order.
ART NOTES: A THIN WOMAN WEARING A LONG-SLEEVED TUNIC (CONSERVATIVE COLORS, BY BYZANTINE STANDARDS, AND THE EMBROIDERY IS SIMPLE -
Of course its uncomfortable until you get used to doing it. Come closer. I’ll show you how to do it right.
No one sane, sensible, or with a choice chooses to live alone in the wilds and on the roads between cities, towns and communities. Even rugged farmers and woodsmen still live as close to other people as their purpose allows. For the vampire, what is folly in humanity is death for the Damned.
So why do the Gangrel live at the crossroads, under the harbors, and in the mountains? They are driven to it. They may be driven out by frightened peasants, ignorant authority figures, jealous husbands or wicked clergy. They may have left on their own, pulled by adventure, curiosity, or considerable misanthropy. But no matter the trigger, the Gangrel left because they could not fit anywhere civilized. Outsiders like this were strange and special as humans, but as vampires, they thrive.
As humans living outside of normal society, their lots were difficult but they survived against the odds, and so it is no different for the Gangrel as a vampire. She may have been Embraced with no ceremony, little romance, and no explanation, but no matter. She survives and endures in ways no other vampire could. She was hard and right and different in the ways she lived and loved before death. In that way, the transition to the Becoming is considerably more seamless. A Gangrel does not mourn her humanity; people never had much room for her anyway.
That is not to say that Gangrel eschew all human contact. While many prefer solitude or the company of loyal and predictable animals, they crave humans and their blood like any other vampire does. And like any other vampire, they’re drawn to other predators in the complicated push and pull of the Beast. The main difference is that the Gangrel flaunts societal expectation, interacting with others on her terms. She talks only to who she wants to, lives where she feels like it, and beds who she desires to bed with little regard to propriety or the law.
Appearance: Whatever is expected and appropriate in local human society, the Gangrel ignores it or only pays enough attention to mock it. She may wear the armor of warriors and lawmen she’s slain while protecting her freedom. He may wear the gowns of a lady and live as one, if it suits him. The Gangrel is mutable and can live as he likes.
Overall, his dress, like his life, is rugged and practical, but just like his life, it is how he chooses. Some Gangrel may be very particular about the image they present, treating their look like he might treat his herd: with considerable consideration and territoriality.
Haven and Prey: A Gangrel sleeps anywhere she damn well wants to. That’s not to say all Outlaws live in the dirt and under the water. Havening in the land is costly, so most Gangrel have a real Haven somewhere on the outskirts or outside of civilization. Lone hunting shacks, watchman’s posts, outlaw camps and fur trader outposts all function well for Outlaws. For the nomadic Gangrel, moving with a herd like travelers, highwaymen, or pirated vessels is not uncommon, though it can be more challenging.
Note that these locations are rarely totally free of human contact. Even the isolated woodman’s shack may be visited on occasion. Animals work for some, but it’s very rare that a Gangrel can live entirely without human vessels. Some Gangrel need the wild hunt, running after a harried pray through village streets and along empty roadways. Some prefer husbandry and herd tending. Some live like spiders, luring in prey. The point is, the Gangrel does it however she pleases, and damn anyone who tries to limit her predilections and preferences.
The Embrace: When animals mate or eat, few would describe the act as romantic or erotic. This is where the Gangrel differ. The brutality of grabbing a human off the road or from the tavern and into the night to breathe their last is sensible to the Gangrel. Doing it any other way would be passionless and cruel. Abandoning a new whelp isn’t done out of selfishness or abuse, but to ensure the new childe will survive the long nights ahead. Most Gangrel sires are watching, from the shadows, and so it isn’t usually actual abandonment. It’s hard to see the intimacy of what a Gangrel does from the outside, which is how they prefer it.
Character Creation: Gangrel tend to favor Physical Attributes first, with cunning and wit coming from secondary Mental Attributes. Gangrel tend to come from among the most Talented human stock and favor these instinct-driven abilities, with Skills as secondary with a focus on what they need to learn to survive. Gangrel can build some truly grand Herds over the years while controlling their territory.
Clan Disciplines: Animalism, Fortitude, Protean
Weakness: When a Gangrel frenzies, her Beast rises to the surface, and the wildness in her blood finds purchase in her flesh and in her mind. She may develop a small physical or mental animal trait that suits either local vampire mythology a predatory animal in the region. Examples include overgrown eyebrows, patches of fur, or an hour of torpor after feeding. The net result is that the trait should give them a +1 difficulty penalty and one automatic failure on some relevant dice pool. The trait and the penalty remain until the player accepts the automatic failure.
Organization: There is no organization universally accepted or practiced within the clan. While a city may have a tight-knit family of Gangrel following a strict, pack-like hierarchy, the next city over may have a group of Outlaws who barely recognize each other’s existence. Some may practice a dedication to clan against all others, while some particularly strong or arrogant Gangrel may see it as every monster for herself. Respect is never given within the clan. If your sire respects another Outlaw, there is no reason you should respect the clansman in kind unless he’s earned it. Hierarchy, if there is one, is built on blood and deeds, not tradition.
Venture: Stone walls can’t keep me out, Prince. Hope I never have the need to come in.
Tremere: We won’t forget what you’ve done.
Nosferatu: What are they digging for?
Tzimisce: We’re the same. You just do it in an empty old castle to screaming peasants. I do it to myself in the glory of the open moonlight and wild of the wood.
Ravnos: I travel as well. The difference between us is that I leave no trace in my passing.
Followers of Set: They worship snakes. Snakes aren’t even proper predators.
Malkavian: Why did you drive me from your city, but he stays? Think about your answer.
Brujah: There is more to the Beast than anger.
Lasombra: Sad days coming for you. I can smell it on the wind.
Jealousy is the provenance of fools and pretenders.
The Lasombra are leaders and prophets, kings and caliphs, generals and holy men. They are scrupulous in deciding who merits the Embrace, and ruthless in destroying those of the clan who prove unworthy. The only threat to the power of clan Lasombra is, perhaps, clan Lasombra itself.
No longer as actively involved in clan affairs, Montano, Lasombra’s eldest childe, rules distantly from the Castle of Shadows in Sicily. It is there that he guards his Sire’s slumber, which is said to be troubled with dark dreams of shadows and the Abyss.
Religious sentiment runs deep; perhaps it is because of the clan’s deep connection to darkness, but many of the Clan walk the Road of Heaven. This deeply-held fervor fuels conflict within the Clan and turns their attention inward. In Iberia, the Shadow Reconquista rages – a war between Christian and Muslim Kindred dividing the Clan. The ripples extend far outside Iberia, involving even distant partisans.
Christian Lasombra within the Church funnel resources toward Christians forces, while Muslim Lasombra seek alliances with other clans, especially the Assamites. They also try to convince their Jewish clanmates to stand with them, as they will surely face worse treatment should the Christians sieze power in Iberia.
For Christian Lasombra, the schism without is mirrored by the schism within. Within the ranks of the Church lurks the Cainite Heresy, a heretical cult dominated by Lasombra priests and bishops. The Cainite Heresy believes that Cainites, having been marked by God, are akin to angelic beings, and the Curse of Caine marks Kindred as holy beings. Of course, even non-Christian Lasombra find this view to be blasphemy and take every chance to expunge such teachings they can.
Appearance: The Clan of Shadows is diverse, with its membership evenly split among those of Spanish, Italian, Jewish, North African, or Arabian origin. Most Lasombra dress in the finest clothes that money can buy, be it precious silks from China, rich French brocades, or the lush woven fabrics of Arabia. Even those in the Church, which nominally eschews wealth and its trappings, are often of sufficiently high rank that some sartorial extravagance is to be expected.
Haven and Prey: Some Lasombra born to wealth and power choose to remain in their family holdings, masquerading as their own heirs in order to retain control over what is theirs. This allows them plenty of opportunities to feed, as large numbers of family, servants, and retainers are needed to maintain such estates.
Others, not wanting the troubles that come with concealing their true nature among such large numbers of mortals, establish solitary, lavishly appointed havens, sacrificing the convenient availability of prey for secrecy and security. Some members of the Cainite Heresy feed on their congregants, passing it off as a sacred rite. But this practice is best kept secret, as it is sure to draw the ire of Christian Lasombra with more orthodox religious convictions.
The Embrace: Lasombra frequently choose their childer from among the wealthy, powerful, or politically elite. However, Magisters will just as frequently Embrace someone of low status but high ambition and intellect. Mere accidents of birth cannot determine someone’s strength of character or their ability to lead.
Clan Disciplines: Dominate, Obtenebration, Potence
Weaknesses: Lasombra cannot be seen in any sort of reflective surface, which makes it difficult to conceal their supernatural nature from mortals. Additionally, members of the Clan of Shadows cannot abide the presence of bright light; they take an additional level of aggravated damage from any exposure to sunlight.
Organization: Within the clan exists an organization known as the Amici Noctis, the Friends of Night. Membership is by invitation only, and invitations are only extended to those who have truly proven their value to the clan. The Amici Noctis preside over the Courts of Blood. Any member of the clan may petition to the Courts of Blood for the right of Amaranth against someone they see as unworthy to be Lasombra. By officially sanctioning the Amaranth, the Amici Noctis maintains strict control of its use. Any Lasombra performing the Amaranth without permission faces summary destruction.
The Amici Noctis is most powerful in central Europe. Montano famously dislikes the Friends of Night and has barred them from Sicily and the Castle of Shadows. In the Iberian Peninsula, the Shadow Reconquista hampers the power of the Amici Noctis. Officially, the Amici Noctis has declared neutrality on any issue relating to the Shadow Reconquista. In practice, this is because they have no power to impose order on the chaos in Iberia.
High Clans: A useless distinction drawn by equally useless people. The Lasombra hold power because we value excellence, not birth. That we are counted as High and not Low says more about them than it does about us.
Low Clans: Let the other High Clans spurn them. Only a fool shuns a useful tool or an invaluable ally.
Assamites: We share more with the Children of Haqim than we do with most other Clans. Let others be blinded by prejudice. They are honorable and worthy allies.
Ventrue: The Scions have always confused power and station, much to their detriment. Let them chase after high office; it only makes them easier to manipulate.
Followers of Set: Let them try to bring back the worship of their dead god. Time moves ever forward, and those who try to stand against progress will get trampled every time.
Tzimice: Godless heathens, the lot of them. They have been offered the chance to turn away from their pagan ways, but have refused. While we cannot deny their power, we cannot trust them either.
You tell me you envy my insight. It comes at a cost. When you speak, I hear you through the cries of everyone I’ve ever known who passed away. When I beg you repeat yourself, it’s because I cannot hear you over the screams of anguish. Yes, that teaches me truths about the soul. But do you envy the lessons?
The year 1242 stands as a particularly difficult time for the Cassandras. In the mortal world, the classic Greek take on mental illness –that it came from organic causes– falls by the wayside. The church’s stance that mental issues are stains on the soul, caused by ungodly behavior, is making great headway. This leads to scrutiny, which leads to misunderstandings, fear, and backlashes. Some of Malkav’s brood met Final Death during unexpected daytime exorcisms. Of course, these violent, unholy deaths only fanned the church’s fire. The Malkavians see a great sickness, a catastrophic blight upon the people coming in time. They know this means further persecution of those outside the norm. Cainites objectify the Children of Malkav, seeing them as seer stones, divining rods, and crystal balls. Everyone knows the War of Princes is coming to an end; the ones that can see the winds of fate will know who is destined for victory, and what alliances to make. To some Princes, Malkavians are little more than Court fashion accessories they can use to boast their obvious awareness.
In most Courts, this meant the Cassandras were seen as a Low Clan. In these places, Malkavians were befitting only whatever respect they earned, not afforded recognition for their lineages. Clever Malkavians recognized this meritocratic sentiment and developed a system with which the clan could benefit. These Malkavian cults, these Ordo, sought to revive the clan’s ancient role as prophets. They experimented extensively, taunting their Beasts, flaying their skin, ingesting blood fueled with psychotropic substances, and otherwise tempting destruction for wisdom. Sometimes, these dangers bore fruit. More importantly, these Ordo shared their knowledge extensively in order to make every member appear every bit the ideal font of wisdom.
Malkavians don’t fight battles; they start battles. Throughout Cainite history, if you look to most major struggles, you’ll find a Malkavian at the epicenter. A Malkavian seer urged Roman Ventrue to devastate the Brujah stronghold at Carthage. The Brujah still hold grudges against the Children of Malkav; they refuse to acknowledge that their dealings with the Baali could have meant an end for all of Caine’s get. This is the Malkavian curse. No matter how wise, how intuitive, how insightful a Cassandra happens to be, human nature looks to pick apart the messenger to the message’s exclusion.
Sobriquets: Cassandras, Children of Malkav, Seers
Appearance: Sometimes, Malkavians look the part of madness. These rare examples tend to lead short existences, whether they die at the hands of the Church, Cainite society, or even as an act of mercy from their clanmates. If there’s one signature trait among the Cassandras, it’s normalcy. Malkavians learn quickly to blend with their surroundings, even if they couldn’t at time of the Embrace. Most were very plain people to begin with, however. The spark of insight presents in the mind, not on the flesh.
Haven: The Cassandras haven in places which look normal in their context. A Malkavian monk sleeps in a monastery, for example. They’ll do anything to blend in and not stand out. Rare is the Seer who keeps a lavish home, as most carry a deep-seated awareness that soon, fire will come. After the fire, they say, a deluge.
Backgrounds: Every Malkavian stands as an individual, so each possesses unique needs and interests. They Embrace in accordance with those needs. That lack of predictability affords the clan one of its greatest strengths. If one feature is common amongst prospective Cassandras, it’s an inherent calmness and sense of judgment. Finding lucidity presents great challenges for even the most stoic; passionate people make for explosive Malkavians. Of course, some Seers look to the oncoming crises with a sense of denial, and outright violent refusal. These Cainites look for the loudest, the brashest, and the most willing potential childer who will take up the sword of Dementation to defend the clan in the struggles to come.
Character Creation: Malkavians are a cerebral clan. Almost all favor Mental Attributes, and most favor Knowledges. The less stable favor Talents, with which they can manipulate and force change in the world around them. Many possess Allies, in case they need a quick save in the face of persecution. Enterprising Malkavians, particularly Ordo, foster Mentor relationships and Status in order to stage themselves as invaluable.
Clan Disciplines: Auspex, Dementation, Obfuscate.
Weakness: Malkav’s children each suffer from an imbalance of the humors that’ll never truly fade. At character creation, choose one derangement (see p. XX). This derangement can never be cured, and a Malkavian may only use Willpower to ignore it for a turn at a time. Even powerful gifts of the blood such as Valeren may only push it aside for a night. After such an effort, however, the derangement comes back in full force. For a week thereafter, the Malkavian cannot use Willpower to resist her derangement at all.
Organization: Malkavians cannot formally gather in large numbers, for fear of persecution. If a convocation of Cassandras ever came to pass, it would almost certainly see devastation at the hands of Brujah soldiers.
Clan members each bear unique signs of imbalance. However, certain threads, certain vague hints of prophecy flash among most or even all members. Many assume this a coincidence, that clan members change their stories to make them sound alike. Others whisper that their dead progenitor seeks to return with secrets lost in the labyrinth of the mind.
Baali: We know the burden of truth at a high price. They overpaid.
Brujah: The tragedy is, we could have let them die. They’ll never forgive us for saving them.
Gangrel: Soon we’ll be seven together. Then we’ll be six apart, and they’ll be one alone. In the end though, we’ll all be one alone.
Lasombra: You don’t know the darkness like I do. To you, it’s a tool. To me, it’s everything.
Salubri: They aim to heal souls. Our souls are changed, not damaged. So their efforts are a fool’s errand.
Tzimisce: Fiends chew bitter flowers. Avoid them.
Ventrue: They value us only because they feel we’re useful. Make no mistakes; they’ll oppose us quicker than the Brujah when our prophecies stop coming true.
Whatever it is, the thing you haven’t found yet, or hoped no one would ever uncover, I’ve got it already. Whatever it is, however much you think it’s worth, you can’t possibly pay the price I have for this information.
Clan Nosferatu is hunted, make no mistake. When they are skittish, cravenly, or quick to run, it is because there is something out to get them. If they bluster with bravado and aggression, it’s because they are cornered. They possess knowledge none were meant to know. It drives them to dig deeper in hopes that somehow they will find a secret so precious it will keep them safe. They delve further into shadows that should stay untouched, and so their danger grows. The clan as a whole spirals toward the sulfurous pits or deeper places that even the Devil fears.
There are secrets in the blood. These terrible truths manifest in Nosferatu flesh, corrupting skin, bending bones, and leaving them as nightmares that even revile the blind. The story goes that the clan founder, Absimiliard, was a covetous and vainglorious beauty whose obsession with comeliness drove Caine to curse him with a countenance so horrific that the angels wept. Endless rejection by the beautiful people he once counted himself among caused him to seek out and destroy his own get. Stories also tell of terrible blood witches in the eastern woods that devour whole villages in the hopes of killing one single Nosferatu. But those are just stories, and the only truth is what the Nosferatu understand in their blood: they are hunted for what they know, and their only hope is to know more.
Nosferatu deal in secrets. The mundane secrets of their cousins are to little more than distractions. No shadow in the Prince’s larder can rock a Nosferatu like the truths of their existence, and that is why they can laugh when a city falls apart from the rumors they let loose. The truths behind murder, blackmail, and power corrupted come all too easily.
Appearance: Whatever truth is in the blood of the clan corrupts the flesh. To any god-fearing man or woman, the Nosferatu bear a terrible curse at best, or are evil incarnate at worst. This corruption is unique from one Prior to another, though occasionally family lines will share monstrous features. The horrific condition of the Nosferatu is highly personal, and as some scholars of Cainite physiology have noted, is occasionally darkly poetic in its expression.
Haven and Prey: Nosferatu seek havens in lost, forgotten corners. Solitude is second only to obsession with security and a need for quick escape. More, it is a place to hide hidden lore, secret documents, and lost artifacts – or perhaps a place to dig deeper. Old Roman sewers and necropolises, the forgotten wings of crumbling castles, and the locked and secret basements of abbeys all serve as excellent places to haven.
Rumors persist of breeding pits of giant rats and pools of blood in secret Nosferatu group havens. Despite the ease with which the abandoned and forgotten members of society might be picked off, most Nosferatu tend to shy away from attacking the disenfranchised. Instead, they let their feedings offer moral object lessons, even if the morals are twisted and the lessons leave no survivors.
The Embrace: Of all the Damned, no Cainite goes through so terrible a death and resurrection as the Nosferatu. The first taste of their sire’s foul blood imparts on them not just immortality, but the blood’s terrible secret. The change is not instant, but rather, over a period of days or even weeks. Their body is wracked with the blood’s burden: muscle, skin, and gristle grind, break and reform in a horrific mockery of humanity.
Character Creation: Nosferatu favor Mental Attributes first and Physical Attributes second, so that they might be smart enough to survive and strong enough to defend themselves in their endless harrowing. While many Nosferatu may be brawlers and liars, there is nothing more precious than Knowledges. On some level, Nosferatu respect all fields of study. Since the clan at large does not know what it seeks, it is impossible to tell what expertise may be important. Whether from paranoia, cunning, or an endless search for compassion, Nosferatu tend to reach far and wide, building up Backgrounds like Allies and Contacts into intricate spy networks or information repositories.
Clan Disciplines: Animalism, Obfuscate, Potence
Weakness: All Nosferatu wear the blood’s corruption on their face. As a result, all Nosferatu start with zero dots in Appearance, and this cannot be raised. Because of this, they automatically fail any first impression roll (except to intimidate) and have difficulty with many social interactions.
Organization: Few families among the Damned claim such tight connections as the Priors. Who else can understand the pain, the fear and the knowledge of their shared burden? Nosferatu in cities will often share one large warren, or keep passages connecting independent havens for quick egress and to help disseminate secrets. Broods often group together, but the clan respects what you know and who you know above who you are. A Prince may mean a thousand times less than a wandering nobody who happens to have been to the chambers under the Vatican.
Assamite: The next time I go into that one tunnel? I think I ought to talk one of them to come along with me.
Brujah: You’re angry without understanding why. Here. Sit down. Let me explain to you why you’re so angry.
Followers of Set: I am told they worship darkness as a god. It is possible that darkness could be a god. It’s certainly strong enough.
Gangrel: I am… uncomfortable… around those with no secrets.
Malkavians: If I’m talking, and she’s being quiet, you are in a lot of trouble.
Salubri: You know, it’s almost possible they know what I know. This is why I leave town when one shows up.
Toreador : A Toreador took me as his lover once. He must have thought it was delightfully profane. I learned absolutely nothing worth my time.
Tremere: They’re looking for the things I wish I could forget. Idiots.
Tzimisce: Even if I could tell you what I know about them, you wouldn’t believe me.
Ventrue: I imagine they think we spend a great deal of time spying on them and trying to undermine them. As if they are that difficult to figure out.
In these nights, I am a god. You, sir, are a monster, and there is no helping it. I cannot relieve you of your burden any more than you can relieve me of mine, and do not condescend to believe that my burden is any less than yours. While you must struggle to master yourself, I must struggle to master all those around me. I would say my burden is greater.
Probably some of the most misunderstood and mistrusted Cainites in the world, the Ravnos are viewed as deceivers and tricksters. Few trust them, and fewer still want them havening in their cities, forcing the clan to be a traveling people by necessity.
The origins of the Ravnos are not well known, though some claim that their progenitor comes from the East. Certainly, many of the clan can trace their roots to India and even use the extensive caste system, referring to their traveling bands as jati. Those who have spent the majority of their unlives in European countries have a harder time tracing their lineages so far east, and tend to speak in ambiguous terms when asked about their origins. Of course, getting a straight answer from any Ravnos is rare. Most of the Charlatans prefer to keep their secrets close to the heart.
The single most defining thing about the nature of the Ravnos is the very reason they are so mistrusted. Many Ravnos believe that the Embrace grants them the ability to see past maya, or the illusion that is reality. In this new transcendent state, they can manipulate the illusion, making them masters of reality. This is not madness, and should not be confused as such. Instead, it is simply a different way of looking at the world, in which the Ravnos have a distinct advantage. Ravnos have no compunction about using illusions in their everyday dealings. Younger Ravnos do not believe in the maya myth. Instead, they gravitate to the power that comes with the ability to manipulate reality. These arrogant Charlatans use their powers to deceive and take advantage of others, hoping to ultimately rule the world. These very acts give the Ravnos their worst reputation.
The Charlatans are often mistrusted on sight and treated like criminals before they can even do anything wrong. Of course, any who treat the Ravnos too badly will feel the wrath of their jati seeking retribution.
Nickname: Shapers, Charlatans, Seekers, Vagabonds, Unwelcome
Appearance: Most Ravnos wear traveling clothes of all varieties. Many wear loose-fitting garments that are both comfortable and utilitarian, with layers to adapt to the weather. Some of the older Ravnos that hold onto pride over functionality wear brightly dyed woolen garments such as saris and sarongs. Younger Charlatans have eschewed any ties they may have once had to their Indian roots, preferring European styles over anything else.
Haven: Ravnos do not stay in any one place for too long. For some, the only havens they can lay claim to are traveling caravans or roadside inns for a few nights. The Charlatans are experts at finding out-of-the-way places and small towns to stay in for short periods of time. It is rare for Ravnos to haven in a city held by other vampires. Yet, when she decides to do so, there is very little the Prince of that city can do to eradicate her, else her entire family comes down on him.
Character Creation: Ravnos rely on trickery and social acumen to get them out of most situations, so Social Attributes are often primary. Younger Charlatans tend to be Embraced from traveling professions. Older Ravnos are often workers, warriors, priests, or gentry. Typical backgrounds include Allies, Contacts, Mentor (for those in a jati), and Resources (usually merchants, but even thieves can acquire a fortune). Ravnos follow many different Roads. Older Ravnos favor the Road of Kings, while the young prefer the Road of Sin. Many follow the Road of Humanity regardless of age. It is rumored that some of the most dangerous Charlatans follow their own faith, called the Road of Paradox.
Clan Disciplines: Animalism, Chimerstry, Fortitude
Weakness: While the Ravnos are masters of changing the reality around them, they have a harder time changing their own fundamental reality. All Ravnos have a key personality trait, chosen at character creation, which they are incapable of resisting if the opportunity to express it presents itself. This can be some kind of virtuous act, such as defending the weak, or something more sinister, such as taking advantage of someone in a lesser position. Often the trait is tied to the jati the Ravnos belongs to. When presented with the opportunity to indulge in her virtue or vice, she does so unless the player succeeds on a Self-Control or Instinct roll (difficulty 6).
Organization: All outward appearances show the Ravnos as small unorganized groups, which do not communicate with, or trust each other. In reality, the Ravnos follow an unspoken code based on the jobs they do and a complex caste system within the jati. While many Ravnos do find it hard to trust another, they maintain respect within the jati. The clan holds to an honor system that prevents them from truly turning their backs on each other, and even has them coming to each other’s aid when threatened. Rumors abound about a scourge or seneschal somewhere who ran a Ravnos out of his city, only to find retribution a few nights later in the form of his entire family.
[[ART NOTE: MRITUNJAY DESAI IS A SOUTH ASIAN MAN OF HIGH BIRTH. HE SHOULD HAVE A STRONG DIGNIFIED AIR, HEAD HELD HIGH, LONG THICK BEARD, LONG DARK HAIR TIED IN A TAIL AT THE TOP OF HIS HEAD. HE SHOULD BE WEARING A TRADITIONAL SHERWANI OF WHITE WITH RED AND GOLD TRIM.]]
Assamites: Demon hunters and warriors. I could see us allying with the Assassins if they would stop ignoring us while they try to suck up to all the other clans.
Ventrue: It is a shame the Ventrue cannot see past their noses while looking down on us. We could prove more useful to them than they think. They are the only ones who might be able to truly understand our strict adherence to lineage and blood relations.
Low Clans: Even the low look down on us. Unfortunately, such a binary delineation cannot begin to truly describe how the world really works. For shame. So many of them have such great potential.
Malkavians: They claim to be seers and wise-women. I don’t doubt they are, for they certainly seem to be able to see the illusion of reality for what it really is. Of course, this makes them dangerous associates.
Nosferatu: Intelligent, cunning, and downright dangerous. If you can get one to open up to you, you should have enough information to give you all the power you want. Just be wary, as their mind tricks can be far nastier than any illusions we might try.
Tremere: Honestly, if you want to call someone deceitful and dishonest, save those epithets for the Tremere. I will never understand what it takes for some to realize who the real enemies of this world are.
You call us heathens, thieves, and serpents. You fail to understand that your hatred says more about you than it does about us.
The Followers of Set are corrupt, hedonistic, and venal. They are evil incarnate, spreaders of disease, heresy, and dissolution. They devote themselves to their god and their sinful pleasures, and must be uprooted whenever discovered. Or at least that’s what most clans would have you believe. As always, their interpretation of the truth is selective at best.
Set was one of the chief gods of the Egyptian pantheon. The god of the desert and storms, he was a harsh god for a harsh land. Then the Ptolemies came, and the Romans after, and twisted the myths to suit their own purpose. Ptolemaic influence turned Set into a god of violence and chaos whose worship was gradually forgotten in favor of the gods of the Abrahamic faiths. And so the rest of the world remembers Set as an evil god best abandoned.
The Followers of Set remember the truth. Set, not Caine, was the progenitor of all Kindred. The myth of Caine is lies and propaganda, designed to Christianize Kindred. Though Set disappeared from the world, it remains the duty of his faithful to spread his word.
Followers of Set actively seek to undermine Christian and Islamic rule in Europe. They do this not out of a love of chaos, which is anathema to Set. Instead, they seek not only the restoration of worship of their god, but to spread it across the known world. More than anyone, the Followers of Set know that religions are living things – they are born, flourish, and die. By working to eliminate the invasive influence of Christianity and Islam, they seek only to hasten the inevitable.
Sobriquet: Serpents, Setites
Appearance: Followers of Set are mostly Egyptian or North African in origin. The few Europeans they Embrace tend to have red hair, which is seen as a blessing or sign of favor from Set. Styles of dress vary according to need. When traveling in less tolerant regions, Setites often dress in the style of North African merchants to avoid drawing undue attention. In the safety of their temples, however, they favor the linen robes of the old Egyptian priests.
Haven and Prey: Hatred of the sun god, Horus, and a need for secrecy lead many Followers of Set to places underground. They frequently establish centers of worship to Set in abandoned temples long-since buried or natural caverns. However, this is not always practical. Many Setites bow to necessity by establishing havens in port city slums, or risk maintaining a secure mobile haven as part of a trading caravan. Regardless of location, most Setites feed on the dregs of society who will not be missed, so as to not draw attention from those in power.
The Embrace: Followers of Set tend to recruit from within the ranks of the secret Set cults that they establish. Through these cults, they identify mortals with the cunning and charisma needed to survive and spread the worship of their god. Potential recruits often serve as ghoul retainers to their Kindred masters. Those with real promise are selected for the Embrace, while the weak remain as servants to their betters. The Embrace itself is a secret ritual that serves as the new childe’s initiation as a priest of Set in their own right.
Despite that many of their adherents are European, most new childer are of Egyptian, Nubian, or Arabian descent, as many elders of the Clan look down on the colonial aggressors who destroyed their way of life. As the Followers of Set expandfurther into Europe, however, they invite more Europeans into their ranks – particularly Gauls and Franks, as they are more likely to have red hair.
Clan Disciplines: Obfuscate, Presence, Serpentis
Weaknesses: The enmity between Set and Horus, sun god and son of Set’s hated brother Osiris, is eternal. The Followers of Set carry Horus’ curse more heavily than other Kindred and take twice the amount of aggravated damage from any exposure to sunlight than members of other clans.
Organization: Setite enclaves follow the old Egyptian temple system. A Prophet and High Priest of Set leads each temple, with varying numbers of subordinate Priests beneath them. Larger enclaves might have many mortal cultists as well as ghoul servants and retainers, while smaller temples might boast only a handful of mortal adherents.
Assamites: The Children of Haqim are our enemies. They preach the word of a god that has supplanted the old ways. If the worship of Set is to flourish once more, they must be destroyed.
Lasombra: The poor godless fools. They tear themselves apart from within, unable to decide which face of the Abrahamic god to devote themselves too. You need only give them the occasional nudge and they will destroy themselves.
Tzimice: Misguided, perhaps. But their war against the Ventrue crusaders is a noble one and should be supported, so long as it would not damage the cause of Set.
Cappadocians: Their abiding interest in the past and the dead make them occasionally useful. However, they lack any real passion or fervor, which makes them useless as potential adherents of Set.
Tremere: Their hunger for power makes them useful tools against our enemies, though one must never forget what lengths they are willing to go to for that power.
Clan Crest: A unicorn reclining sinister atop a tripartite crest with three bloody eyes on an azure field.
“Vigilamus Super Omnes” (We Watch Over All)
Once, the Salubri were united, a clan of scholars and thieves, healers and warriors. They walked every corner of the world, fought with and beside every clan, claiming the mandate of Caine in judging the collective soul of the vampire race. The Shepherds pursued the lore of Nod, sought to guide Cainites to Golconda, and took it upon themselves to end those fallen to Wassail. Together, the bloodline placed themselves outside and above Cainite society, working endlessly to ensure relations between kindred and kine remained stable (if not precisely harmonious).
Now, the Salubri are fragmented. Saulot’s blood darkens the throat of Tremere, and a new clan hunts the old. The founder of the Warrior bloodline, Samiel, met his Final Death in a Baali pit. The leader of the Healers, Rayzeel, cannot contain the fury of her brothers. Without Warriors to guard them, Healers fall to the fangs of the Usurpers. Without Healers to guide them, Warriors waste their fury in a thousand separate wars. Both bloodlines fall alone on foreign fields with none of the Blood beside them. Their cousins east of the Indus, the bloodline of the Wu Zao, remain so dedicated to the oath Saulot forced upon them that they will let the other bloodlines perish rather than forswear themselves.
Saulot’s diablerie was the death knell for the clan, as the Salubri split along ideological lines against a united enemy. The Shepherds see blades in the night tacitly endorsed by clans who judge themselves above Salubri arrogance. Princes who once sought Salubri as seneschals and champions now prefer the demon-haunted whispers of the Usurpers. The clan’s refusal to tolerate weakness or moral imperfection won them few friends, and the usefulness of Valeren is nothing against the versatility of Thaumaturgy. The true horror of the Salubri came when they found themselves not just hunted, but replaced. Without us, they cry to uncaring hearts, what darkness will the Damned embrace?
Sobriquet: Shepherds, Unicorns (Healer), Cyclopes (Warrior), Souleaters (derogatory)
Appearance: The kindness of the Salubri is apparent in their deeds, if not their faces. The far-flung nature of the clan, eschewing centralized bastions of power, leads to Salubri traveling vast distances from their birthplaces. If they cannot blend in with their skin and manner, they will attempt to do so with dress, preferring muted colors and a lack of ostentatious presentation. The predilection of the clan to develop a third eye bespeaks a fondness for hood and headscarves. Those Salubri Embraced from religious orders usually maintain the trappings of their breathing days.
Havens: Those Salubri who are travelers by nature hide from the sun behind tents of thickest cloth. The others rely on the grace of human communities to host them. How else would they ensure the safety and health of the human herds? More than one vampire has found themselves going hungry when a Salubri appeared amidst a human flock. Other Shepherds are now hosted by monasteries, convents, and heretical cults; such places offer much safety from the Tremere.
Backgrounds: The clan’s predilection for spreading into the teeming masses of humanity grants them both Herd and Contacts, while their ancient practice of association with the most powerful in Kindred society means they cultivate Allies. These keep them alive in these nights, if only barely. Salubri also place great stock in purity of bloodlines, and rare is the Salubri over 10th Generation.
Character Creation: Salubri do not take the bloodline of their sires, but manifest their bloodline as a semi-conscious choice in the nights after the Embrace. Despite this (or because of it), the bloodlines tend to choose childer carefully in an attempt to maintain a continuation of interests. Healers prioritize Mental and Social Attributes, focusing on Perception, Medicine and Hearth Wisdom. Warriors prioritize Physical and Social Attributes, focusing on Strength and Melee. Both bloodlines value Empathy and Willpower. Beyond their Clan Disciplines, Healers tend to pick up Presence and Warriors Potence, while the Wu Zao favor Obfuscate.
Almost unanimously, the Healers walk the Roads of Heaven and Humanity, while the Warriors stalk the Paths of Chivalry. In these decadent nights, however, some Warriors have turned to the Path of the Devil, raging against a system that has doomed them.
Clan Disciplines: Auspex, Fortitude, Valeren
Weaknesses: All Salubri have a third eye in the middle of their forehead, typically invisible and obscured. When the Salubri use any Valeren or Auspex power above the second dots, the third eye opens for a scene, shedding soft radiance and weeping luminous vitae. The third eye is sensitive; attempting to cover it results in a penalty of one-die to all rolls. Additionally, the bloodlines suffer from additional weakness.
Organization: These nights, most Salubri default to an elder-junior relationship. The Warrior bloodline of the Salubri lacks elder leadership, most of whom perished during the Second Baali War with their founder. The Healers have assumed control of the clan, what little will listen to them. The clan’s strongholds of power in the Mediterranean were destroyed by demons and Setites, and their numbers never truly recovered. Before the Conclave of 1135, Healers and Warriors would typically support one another in a single city, but the Healer pronouncement that the clan would not seek vengeance against the Tremere has effectively shattered the idea of the clan as a cohesive entity.
Quote (Healer): Remember the words of Saulot: we are the white lamb, the greatest bounty of Caine. Our sacrifice is their redemption.
Quote (Warrior): Remember the words of Samiel: be like a lion, not like a lamb.
Tremere: Our Blood stains their lips. But if we ignore Saulot’s desires, are we still Salubri?
Ventrue: Puppets, with strings pulled by Usurpers. Would that we had claimed kingship as our birthright.
Assamite: Our kin in blood and battle, strong sword arms against the Baali. Our truest allies, yet I have seen the same hunger as the Usurpers in their eyes.
Brujah: You’d think our shared love of strength and knowledge would earn us more respect.
Setite: The black snakes of our family. Trample them underfoot, and never eat their fruit.
Malkavian: Our poor mad brothers. Soothe them when you can, guard them when you cannot.
The Salubri Weakness
For a clan comprised of three-eyed vampires, Salubri can be remarkably short-sighted. They have a tendency to fixate on small details and ignore the larger picture, a predilection that ultimately dooms them. This behavior has root in their weakness (they adamantly maintain they were not cursed by Caine) which manifests a few nights after the Embrace, as the Blood swells to power and purpose. The Salubri must succeed on a Willpower roll (difficulty 6) if they act against the following commandments; if they fail, they must either attempt to satisfy their prohibition, or suffer a two-die penalty on all rolls for the remainder of the night.
• Healers: May not feed on the unwilling.
• Warriors: May not refuse to aid the plea of someone in need.
• Wu Zao: May not refuse to seek out knowledge related to their field of obsession.
My faith teaches these cravings are wrong. I vowed to abstain, yet I worship the village beauty for a sennight, writing odes to her eyes. I bind her with a thousand lies, then end her life in a grove smelling of pine, my hands wound in her golden braids.
I’m tortured by what I’ve become. Where is redemption to be found?
Toreador live by their whims. Do they feel like strolling in the gardens or tossing away a fortune on a game of cards? It’s the age of chivalry and Toreador are coming into their own magnificence. The worship of beauty in the Dark Ages, the fascination with mysticism, all these influences draw a Toreador like a moth to a flame. Sometimes Toreadors are the moths. Other times, they’re the flames.
Toreador watch mortals play out their brief lives and often intervene. Drama adds zest to their unlives, their machinations tied into the tiniest detail. They are directors and mortals are the actors.
Toreador are the original hedonists, but with a twist. They can never feel what they seek. They seek warm, mortal flesh to stave away the chill of undeath. They drink fine wine, though it tastes of dust, chasing the memory of bursting grapes on their tongue. They fill their homes with art and music, though they struggle to create it themselves.
For some Toreador, religion is their passion. They take it to extremes frowned upon by the Church, self-inflicting stigmata or flagellating their sins from their body. Yet they sin and sin again, living in the vacuum of God’s displeasure. After all, if Christ’s great gift is forgiveness, why waste that gift on a life of temperance? These vampires particularly feel the loss of grace.
To hear a Toreador talk, their clan is responsible for the entire history of art, from cave paintings to early Byzantine mosaics. As with many things involving Cainites, this carries a hint of truth, as Toreador have patroned and inspired many great artists throughout history.
If a Toreador was artistic in life, she spends her unlife pursuing the perfection humanity brings. However, because all Toreador lack something ineffable that mortals possess, they never achieve what they once did with a limited lifespan. It is traumatizing, but they never stop seeking it.
Sobriquets: Aesthetes, Artisans, Vanitas
Appearance: Toreador pursue not only beauty, but propagate themselves through beauty. Their beauty often reflects the ideal from the era and homeland from which they come, so they range from exotic and dark to porcelain blondes with high foreheads. A collective of Toreador is a breathtaking sight.
Haven: A Toreador wants to be surrounded by art and lovely things, but he is equally likely to seek out artists in their garrets, or a patron of his own to help him afford his expensive taste. Toreador are true collectors, focusing their obsession on finding rare and precious items to add to their collection. They do the same with their retainers, curating the people around them.
Backgrounds: Toreador are mercurial in their choice of childer, choosing by passion and conviction. It is not unusual for a Toreador to Embrace a favorite artist, lover, or muse to stay as eternal as she is. Unfortunately, the changeable nature of the Toreador leads to some cast-offs, as a sire tire of the childe he chose. This fosters resentment and some creative revenge plots.
Character Creation: The arts and graces of society are of the greatest importance to the Toreador, so focus on high social Attributes and Abilities. Preferred backgrounds include Herd, Retainers and Resources. Toreador struggle to sever themselves from mortal pleasures, so the Road of Humanity is most common. However, some choose the Road of Kings instead. They have the strongest connection to mortals, and this allows them to hold their humanity tighter, but they can’t keep the Beast at bay forever.
Clan Disciplines: Auspex, Celerity, Presence
Weakness: The Toreador has the shortest attention span of all Cainites. Once struck by beauty, it’s as if Cupid’s dart pierced them. If they encounter beauty (Storyteller and player work together to determine appropriate triggers), they must roll Self-Control or Instinct (difficulty 5). If they fail, the daydream of their senses continues until the scene concludes or object departs.
The rush of pleasure they receive from objects of beauty is highly addictive. An undisciplined Toreador can end up reeling from one moment of aesthetic bliss to the next and their enemies can exploit this.
Organization: From time to time, Toreador gather in loose collectives to refine their individual tastes and inspire each other. These gatherings are not for the faint of heart or feeble of wit. Passionate arguments over art, music and theater are common, as are performances and impromptu art galleries. The art on display can originate from the Toreador in attendance or showcase the special talents of their protégés.
Dimly-lit corners are perfect for arranged rendezvous, with the intellectual dalliances Toreador hold dear. Hot-tempered Toreador are known to duel to right a wrong or just for amusement.
Cappadocians: Long-faced cadaver dullards. They say they have much to teach us (as do most of our other brethren), yet who wants to sit around listening to them drone?
Gangrel: The beasts are boorish, too brutish for us. Chase them back to their forests and caves.
Lasombra: We feel a great kinship with this clan and their exoticism intrigues us. Are they slipping from their high perch? Alluring, yet dangerous to enrage.
Malkavians: The Children of Malkav hold special fascination, perhaps because they dance along the line of real and delusion like us. They then charge forward into madness, but are diverting companions.
Nosferatu: Is it possible to imagine a clan less suited to our feasts and gatherings? With few exceptions, they are off the guest list unless you want rotten flesh dripping in your wine.
Tremere: Dull with their blood magic and their tedious experiments. There’s always one that turns up, latches onto a conversation he has no business participating in, and ignores all hints to go away. We use them when useful.
Ventrue: Almost our equals. Almost. They are on the rise – we will watch their struggles with interest.
The true magus is one with the power to act. Blood is our power, and the time for action is now.
Faced with undeniable signs that the power of magic was fading from the world, a small group of Hermetic magi sought to revitalize themselves through other means. In 1022, under the leadership of Tremere, they discovered the elixir of vampiric blood that gave them their desire. They became the first truly new clan: self-created, obligated to no one but themselves, and ready to carve out a place for themselves in the society of the Damned through their arts.
They were not welcomed. Plunged immediately into conflict over lands and strongholds with the Tzimisce, the fledgling clan worked rapidly to develop new spells and rituals to protect themselves. The speed with which they created their new discipline, Thaumaturgy, shocked other vampires. They accused the Tremere of gaining their power through diablerie and blasphemous experimentation, and even of being responsible for the destruction of the Salubri Antediluvian, Saulot.
Few in number and with no true allies, the Tremere must rely on bargains with other clans and their own close-knit hierarchy. The Ventrue have proven especially receptive to trading protection for magical services. The Tremere guard themselves first and foremost, but even within their ranks, factions and cabals struggle with each other to seize what meager influence the clan has in the world. Younger vampires are made to carry out their elders’ schemes, all while maneuvering themselves into positions of greater authority.
This is the paradox of the Tremere: they have gained the immortality that their founder searched for, but they still act with the rashness of mortals who believe their time is limited., They carry out many of their schemes for immediate benefits, not considering how their decisions might change their destinies in the centuries ahead. The enemies that they make now will haunt them in the future, as will the bargains that they strike and the sacrifices they make for the sake of security. For all of their vaunted self-discipline, their position is still a fragile one.
Nicknames: Usurpers, Tremores (“the trembling ones”)
Appearance: Tremere vampires favor simple and practical attire for whatever location they find themselves inhabiting. In cities with universities, that tends to mean presenting a scholarly appearance, either as students or professors. In the countryside, donning the robes of wandering monks (like those of the Franciscans) allows them to move undisturbed through many areas.
Haven: Most Tremere gravitate toward cities, especially cities with universities or cathedral schools. Depending on their relationship with the vampiric authorities in those cities, they may dwell near the scholarly centers or be relegated to the slums and ghettos. Tremere who do not live in cities tend to construct small, secure lairs in which to conduct their research undisturbed, often near sites of magical power.
Backgrounds: The Tremere fill their ranks with individuals who hunger for both knowledge and power: occultists, alchemists, theologians, philosophers, and scholars of all kinds. Neither age nor religion are any hindrance, although they do expect those they Embrace to accept their Hermetic-Neoplatonic theories if they wish to learn Thaumaturgy.
At the same time, the Clan is pragmatic in its choice of members when need arises. Tremere Embrace warriors to lead their forces against the Tzimisce and Embrace courtiers to represent the clan in the domains of the noble Damned. Such vampires face a difficult existence, however. Without the lure of magical power to keep them bound to the Clan’s designs, they are kept under close watch by their superiors and rarely afforded the opportunity to advance.
Character Creation: Most Tremere follow the Road of Humanity simply because, due to the Clan’s youth, other possibilities have not occurred to them. Mental Attributes and Knowledges are usually primary, and even those Tremere with a less scholarly focus are expected to be open to learning. For those who practice Thaumaturgy, a high Willpower is a must. Mentor is the most common Background for individuals.
Clan Disciplines: Auspex, Dominate, Thaumaturgy
Weakness: The Tremere’s rush to exploit the powers of vampiric blood comes with its own disadvantages: they are particularly vulnerable to blood bonds when they drink the blood of other Damned. The first draught of blood that a Tremere consumes counts as two for the purposes of establishing a bond, meaning that the next drink will complete it. Furthermore, all newly Embraced Tremere must surrender a vial of their blood to the Council of Seven, who stores it in a hidden vault in their Carpathian chantry. That blood, they warn, can be the means by which they exact thaumaturgical punishments on any who disobey, no matter how far they run or how well they hide themselves.
Organization: The leaders of the Tremere are the Council of Seven, who issue commands through successive and rigidly structured ranks of vampiric underlings. In theory, each rank—Council Regent, Domain Regent, Chantry Regent, and Chantry Apprentice—is made up of seven vampires for every superior, but in practice, the numbers vary wildly in these uncertain times. Rising through the ranks requires patience, demonstration of occult power, and the ability to survive the internal politics of the clan.
Assamites: They know secrets of the blood that we do not. This must be remedied.
Brujah: A pity we did not meet them before their descent into degeneration.
Cappadocians: Worthy of respect, although their focus on the dead means that they neglect other sources of power.
Gangrel: Their animal vitality makes them excellent subjects for experimentation. They can endure so much.
Nosferatu: Look beyond appearances at what they can offer: knowledge that the other Clans do not think worthy of their attention.
Salubri: The world cannot be healed, only mastered. They forget this lesson at their own cost.
Tzimisce: Their grotesqueries are nothing but masks to hide the fears of a Clan whose time will soon come to an end. Their crude sorceries keep them bound to territory we will soon make our own.
Ventrue: Let them believe that they rule and that we are eager to serve. They will be the path by which we ascend to prominence.
Do not fear, little mortal. The earth feeds you, you feed me, I feed the earth. This is the order of things, it is natural.
Vampire: Like a field mouse upon whom the osprey’s shadow falls, the word alone conjures a fearsome kind of imagery in the hearts of men. Tall, darkly gracious fiends of aristocratic bearing. Forlorn castles athwart craggy mountainsides. Primeval forests swaddled in mist through which hungry shadows haunt the night. These are the Tzimisce, sometimes called Fiends; the vampires of vampires, the eternal bogeymen stalking the nightmares of mortals.
The wilds of Eastern Europe are inseparable from the legends of vampires, and the Tzimisce ruled these lands since before mortal memory. The Carpathian Mountains are their bones, its soil their flesh, and they share their vitae with it – just as the kine share theirs with the Tzimisce – in a perpetual cycle of life and unlife. Vampire memories run long, and the koldun recall a time when Tzimisce dwelt in the Second City, but ached with sickness…a longing for a home he had never seen. He exiled himself, following a call to these mountains. So it has always been, the two indivisible; here, there is no history that does not involve them, no kings may rule above them, and no enemy can contest them. Or so the Tzimisce believed…
The Tzimisce sense of superiority allowed the Tremere to go uncontested for far too long; now the Usurpers and their Gargoyle soldiers trespass upon Tzimisce lands and engage openly upon fields of battle. Never ones to let a strategic advantage slip, the Ventrue raid across Hungary’s eastern border into Transylvania and launch crusades into the pagan northlands, looking to seize Fiends territories. The Mongol horde, though disruptive to Tzimisce’s eastern holdings, provides some respite as it boils through mountain passes into the west, forcing their enemies to face them in the field while the Fiends watch safely from mountain strongholds above. A quiet war brews within the clan, only forestalled by the clan’s ancient tradition of hospitality, as the elders call for a return to the old ways while the younger generations push for change. Revolution seems just around the corner for the Fiends.
Appearance: In ages past, the Tzimisce were the most regal of clans, tall, unbent and broad like the mountains they dwell upon. They elevated only the choicest of mortals, and most often drew directly from their own ghoul families, ensuring strong frames and proper dispositions which were then further idealized through the vagaries of Vicissitude. As war creeps into their lands, though, the Fiends find themselves forced to compromise their preferred forms, replacing limbs with weapons and assuming their monstrous battle-shapes for greater and greater periods of time. Some younger Fiends found liberation through modification and embrace shapes others would consider alien and bizarre, following their own path into the future.
Haven: Most Tzimisce keep haven in whatever constitutes luxury for them. They stand as regal by their own definitions. This almost always means surrounding themselves with massive subjects and herds, wherever they happen to roost. Due to their tie to the earth, if they leave their homeland, they will find some way to establish a bond to their new home.
Background: Traditionally, Tzimisce drew from among the most suitable members of their own nobility, prizing loyalty, fierceness, and strength above all other qualities. To this end, they prefer to embrace ghouls, and they have established whole families of revenants to serve that purpose. Tzimisce rarely Embrace foreigners, and when it happens, you can be assured they are truly exceptional. Metamorphosists, however, will sometimes eschew tradition, instead seeking out those who inspire them with their spiritual perfection, while some among the younger generations delight in the aesthetic possibilities of strangers.
Character Creation: Tzimisce equally prize Mental and Physical Attributes. And while the image of the Tzimisce warrior cutting a gory path through a battlefield is a common (and accurate) enough stereotype, the clan also boasts its share of scholars, priests, monks, and sorcerers, meaning Skills, Talents, or Knowledges might be favored by any given Tzimisce. For a clan defined by its relationship to the land it rules, Domain is by far the most important Background. Herd is vital for any Tzimisce; it is hard to call oneself a ruler without subjects. Road of Kings is most common among the Fiends. The Road of Metamorphosis is populated almost entirely by Tzimisce, though they are still very much a minority.
Clan Disciplines: Animalism, Auspex, Vicissitude
Weaknesses: Tzimisce draw their mandate to rule from the very land itself, but this does not come without a price. A Tzimisce who does not rest with at least two handfuls of native soil – that is, soil from a place of importance to them, usually their home or their grave – will arise the next night impaired. Halve all dice pools for each day of such rest (round down), cumulatively, until the pool reaches one die. A full day of proper rest will restore the dice pools to their normal value.
Organization: Tzimisce abide by ties of family and blood; they are an incestuous clan, with sprawling legacies made up of dozens, if not hundreds of members, where respect is afforded to the eldest and the maneuvering among the childer for attention and affection brings new meaning to the phrase “sibling rivalry”. Outside one’s own legacy, it is important to recognize other Tzimisce as rightful rulers – they are, after all, blood of the land too – but no family is willing to submit to another. This constant struggle for dominance creates an uneasy tension among Fiends. Because of this, Tzimisce recognize a necessary tradition of hospitality. Formal, unflagging hospitality. Almost in defiance of their basic natures, man or vampire welcomed into a Tzimisce’s home can expect safety and basic comfort, so long as the guest commits no affront to the host’s graciousness.
Anda: These newcomers remind us of Gangrel, but understand loyalty and family. I would like to know more.
Brujah: I respect their prowess, but not their cause. Which cause? None of them.
Gangrel: Unruly and unkempt, but as close to brothers as we will ever have outside our own.
Ghouls: Useful, sometimes even worthy of respect. So long as they are ours.
Tremere: There is nothing worth discussing here. Soon there will be only those of who speak of their memory. Then we will kill them as well, and the Tremere will simply never have existed.
Ventrue: Theirs is no true authority, they have no mandate to rule. They have been allowed to play this charade for too long; they will take a knee now or be made to suffer for their insolence.
Lupines: Do not underestimate these beasts; they have their own connection to the land, which makes them very dangerous.
I smell power in the air. A king has died. Long live the king. I stand in the throne’s shadows, but most do not know my name. Years slip away like tides, dynasties fall, and yet I remain a most trusted advisor. He will not see the string tied to his limbs until it is too late.
The king is dead. Long live the king.
The Ventrue trace their line back to the Second Generation. As the eldest of Enoch, their sense of tradition guides them. Divine right is their birthright: their legitimacy is documented in blood-red letters throughout Cainite history. Let those who are most fit to rule do so.
Leading is their gift and their burden. Ventrue chafe at Lasombra restrictions, ever hungry and ambitious. All the power they want is within their grasp. When the time arrives, those merchant princes and warrior kings will lead their brethren to cast the yoke off of those who’ve ruled far too long.
The Ventrue take their cue from Ancient Rome, from the Julii and the Brutii, those aristocratic conquerors who relied on a framework of discipline, fortitude and charisma to lead. They can be a potent combination of powerful speakers and brave soldiers, currying favor as capably as any Caesar. In fact, the word “dominate” arose from the Dominus and Domina, titles of the Roman aristocracy.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown; Ventrue often worry more than other clans about the mortals in their care. Memories of glory from their mortal days are too poignant and heady a draft, so they pursue power through their unlives as well.
With their powerful disciplines of Dominate and Presence, they are frequently sent in to keep the peace amongst Cainites, using their divine right of authority to maintain the Silence of the Blood.
During the Long Night, the Ventrue withdrew from most visible positions of power, preferring to steer from out of sight. But with the War of the Princes, the Ventrue are ready to rise. All they must do is convince everyone else.
Ventrue are not as flexible as their opponents and subject to infighting, but when they do band together, they can accomplish terrifyingly ambitious goals.
Sobriquets: Power Mongers, Ambitiones, Patricians (derogatory)
Appearance: Ventrue are not seen in ostentatious clothes. The cloth and cut will be exceptionally fine, tailored to their figure. Depending on the Ventrue’s temperament, you will see costly embroidery or merely exceptional cut. They always dress appropriate to their station, but they take care not to outshine the ones they are manipulating.
Haven: Ventrue dislike being in the middle of nowhere, unless there is a stronghold with vast lands and resources they can draw upon. Because of their feeding specialties, they tend to gravitate towards locales that provide ample flocks to draw upon. They thrive on being amidst the populace, for what purpose in being a leader if there is no one to lead?
Backgrounds: The Ventrue sense of self-superiority is so strong that it can be quite off-putting. It makes sense that they seek the aristocracy and the cream of society to Embrace, those whose education, background, and talents draw the attention of Ventrue elite.
Ventrue never reproduce haphazardly, but select prospects like fine wine. Once they Embrace a childe, they focus on their training and upbringing to hone them to Ventrue expectations. Purity of bloodline is preferred, but they also appreciate the strengthening brought by mixing in a prodigy of a more mongrel background. Ventrue with a less rarefied history can rise in the ranks, but it demands true commitment, the backing of a well-regarded sire, talent, and luck.
Character Creation: Ventrue characters need a keen balance between Physical and Mental Attributes, between social graces and knowledge. A Ventrue with low Charisma is like a fish without water: flailing in desperation till the end. As far as Backgrounds, Allies and Retainers are extremely useful. Resources and Domain for holdings should not be neglected. The Road of Kings calls the Ventrue in their deepest desires, for each Ventrue believes their birthright is to lead.
Clan Disciplines: Dominate, Fortitude, Presence
Weakness: Rarefied taste has its cost, as the Ventrue are restricted to one particular type of mortal (merchants, French, Catholics, small children). This choice severely limits their feeding pool. They can consume mortal blood outside of this selected preference, but it does not forestall the Beast or provide nourishment.
Organization: The Ventrue believe strongly in the feudal order. Structure and hierarchy allows them to understand precisely who is above them and who is below. An oath, backed by blood, is one of the easiest ways of enforcing loyalty of those below.
Brujah: They hate us, but need us. We temper their ferocity with understanding of the requirements of rule. If their ambition can be sculpted, they can be dangerous but powerful allies.
Cappadocians: Death-mongering withered husks. Let them remain amongst their corpses and their crypts and leave us to our conquests.
Gangrel: Beasts, pure and simple. Excellent attack dogs, but best kept on a very short leash.
Lasombra: Though they are ascendant now, their time comes to an end. We need only seize the opportunity.
Nosferatu: Vile and often smelly. If you employ them, be sure to keep your handkerchief close. A few are clever enough to be useful, if they can be endured.
Toreador: Though we may be impatient with their obsession with beauty, the Toreador are often our equals in social settings. Flatter them with honeyed words, but do not forget they are the most unreliable of our kindred.
Tzimisce: Ancient rulers unaware their moment is long past. Even those fair of face are fiends at heart. We will ally with whomever necessary to wipe them from the world.
Tremere: They speak in riddles, hinting at vast storehouses of ancient knowledge. If you must, use them and be done with it. Let them rot with their dust and their books.
Chapter Three: Character Creation
What is a story without its characters? What is a world without those to witness, experience, and shape it? Your character, a product of the Dark Medieval World but Embraced and therefore apart from it, stands witness to what enfolds, chronicling this time and pushing through it. The knowledge you will live beyond what this dark time has to offer looms before you, like a surrogate sun. But first you must survive.
Create a character, an individual with a history, desires, regrets, and more before thrusting them onto the stage your Storyteller has set for you. Keep them within the parameters your Storyteller has set, and explore the depths of humanity (and lack thereof) within the Cainite community.
On the more technical side of character creation, quantifiable aspects of your character will be recorded on your character sheet. We’ve provided an example on page XX; a cursory glance will provide you with the basic overview of what your character may be able to do. Keep it by your side as you read this chapter for quick reference.
The character sheet records the following traits and facts:
1. Name: Your character’s name. Your cultural background may or may not warrant you a surname of some fashion.
2. Player: Your name.
3. Chronicle: A title picked by the Storyteller, it sets the tone for the series of stories the characters are participating in (e.g. A Dark Page Turns).
4. Nature: The one-word Archetype which represents your character’s true self. The list of Archetypes follows later in this chapter.
5. Demeanor: The one word Archetype representing how your character presents herself to the world.
6. Clan: One the 13 clans, bloodlines descended from the Antediluvians, Caine’s childer. A vast majority of vampires belong to a clan, supplying a choice of starting Disciplines and providing a special supernatural weakness associated with the lineage. Other characters are part of the various Bloodlines.
7. Generation: A measurement of how far removed your character is from Caine, the first vampire. The lower the generation, the closer to Caine and the greater the potential within your undead body. All characters start at 11th generation, unless you buy the Generation Background.
8. Attributes: Traits which measure your character’s inherent Physical, Social and Mental capacity.
9. Abilities: Traits which measure what your character has learned. They are divided into Talents (innate proficiency), Skills (learned proficiency), and Knowledges (academic and learned lore).
10. Road: The name of the moral code you have chosen to follow. Roads offer parameters a vampire may work within to keep their Beast under control, guiding their behaviour. The higher the Road score, the closer you are to the touchstone. The Road you choose also determines to which Virtues your character ascribes.
11. Advantages: These traits sharpen the edges of your character, bringing details to your character which make then stand out from the others. You receive five Backgrounds. You may choose four dots of your character’s clan Disciplines. Lastly, choose seven dots between your Virtues. Depending on your character’s Road, she may have Self-Control or Instinct, Conscience or Conviction, and Instinct.
12. Aura: Tied to Road and its rating, see p. XX.
13. Willpower: Your character’s mental reserves; allows you to push yourself farther than you are typically able to go.
14. Blood Pool: The reserve of blood your character has. Blood can be ‘spent’ to perform certain types of actions. Your character’s maximum blood is determined by her Generation.
15. Health: Your physical well-being. Broken bones and missing limbs still limit what a vampire will be able to do. Record injuries and refer to page XX to see how your actions are affected.
16. Weakness: Each clan and bloodline possesses a weakness. Note this.
Essentials of Life and Unlife
At the core, vampirism is the same. The living is killed, Embraced and turn into a creature who lusts for the crucial elixir needed in order to maintain their unlife. However, each individual brings a history and personality to become a Beast-addled Cainite which will influence the rest of the story they choose to tell. These three sentences, once completed will tell much of your character’s history, state of being and what lies before you in the Dark Ages.
Determine these three aspects of your character. Here, we provide examples.
In Life I Was….
Once you were alive. You lived your life marching towards death; working, eating, praying, sleeping. Chances are you were poor, and lived surrounded by farmland and forests. If you didn’t till the earth, you had a trade or a craft. Diseases, both agricultural and human, were devastating. Family and religion offered comfort. You had beliefs about Heaven and Hell and the afterlife. A social structure lofted men and women above you because of their lineage and clergy rose in power towards the heavens, elevated by faith. Soldiers marched to lands you would never see or even read about to soak the earth with blood and fill the air with oaths. This was your world. Small. Cruel. A shining dagger covered in dirt and gore, aimed always for your heart.
My Sire Chose Me Because….
Even in your frail, pathetic state, your sire saw something, someone to Embrace. Reasons for siring are as varied as vampires themselves and are influenced by many things. A sire’s personal desires, clan initiatives, faction strategies and more are combined and honed to a fine edge. The target: you.
Motives for siring will influence the relationship between sire and childe, but the childe is never asked to be Embraced. Whether in a moment of desperation or after years of quiet calculation, Embrace is given, never taken, in a hopes to preserve something about you and stretch it out over the ages. Position? Loyalty? Companionship? Zeal? Death is clawed away and replaced with unlife as they reach for what they desire from you with cold, covetous hands.
How I Spend my Nights…
In V20 Dark Ages, the story of your unlife begins not where death slips away but where your new place among the Cainites has led you. You have been reared by your sire (if they chose to do so; most do) and know how to conduct yourself among other Cainites. Those who would claim responsibility for your actions are stepping back and allowing you to discover this world on your own.
As soon as you step out into the night, you must explain why you are there. Evening is a time for rest for most humans, a time to shut the doors and close the windows. In the dark of the night, humans bring fire to light their ways or slink suspiciously about their business. A credible explanation for why you are seen during the evening and only after the sun goes down must be supplied. An oath made to friends long gone, a superstition, a strange disease can all sit in for the truth as to why nightfall beckons you forward.
The nights are many and tedium must be avoided lest the Beast begins to stir. Undeath, both in its stretch of time and contacts, affords you time to attempt and accomplish many things. Perhaps you continue with a permutation of your human life, or pursue new endeavors, using new found Abilities to enhance your machinations. Or you may decide to abandon the world of light and the living altogether, devoting oneself to the War of Princes and taking a place among the movers and shakers of domain, region and clan. Every vampire will find themselves caught up in it at some point. Why not leap in before you are thrust in?
BUT I DON’T KNOW!
Many players come into a game with an idea, the Storyteller’s prompts fueling a well fleshed out biography in moments. Some come simply wanting to play and draw a blank as soon as their eyes hit the top half of the character sheet. If this is you, don’t worry. Not every detail needs to be hammered out from the start. Work with your Storyteller and find out what information will be important to the first session or so. Give your Storyteller something to work with which is appealing to you. What is needed will be found.
I Am, We Are; Domain and Coterie
Wolves have their packs. Owls have their parliaments. Vampires have their coteries. A single character can carry a tale for a spell but a cast of characters can inhabit an epic. In addition, a group of vampires bring many talents to the table and provide protection for one another. Quite simply, they can accomplish more together. They may not like it. But it is a fact.
When creating your character history, create it out loud. Perhaps a fellow player’s character holds similar interests or background, or with a little work, you can weave your two stories together before it has even begun. Finding connections between your characters will make their working together more natural. Relationships, for ill or good, also add more depth to your character.
Since the Last Sunset
Not only has your character been a Vampire for some time, but your coterie has existed, entrenching itself in the land, setting its boundaries and observing the rites and rules afforded a group of vampires who have come together to claim a territory. This forming of the coterie will be played out in the Prelude, a prologue which reveals how you came to the character expressed on your Character Sheet and in the company of your fellow players.
The Nature of Our Cause
People gather for many reasons. Vampires too form coteries for many reasons. Be sure to discuss the intentions which fueled your group to come together. Not everyone may be in the coterie for the same reason. Some may have been told to join by their sire while another player wishes to take advantage of the others’ skills for a more clandestine reason.
The Coterie of Mutual Survival
Simple. Basic. A group of vampires who are able to work together, be through common Clan, similar age or some combination, stake a claim on a piece of land and those who dwell there. They do just that, leaving each other to their own devices for the most part. The members of the coterie can be as warm or aloof as the coterie necessitates or desires.
The Coterie of Influence
Many vampires come together to pool their influence in a sphere of mortal society. A coterie with many talents at its disposal and all night to plan can organize properly, keeping track of what is being said and done. They protect their interests by swaying the human mob which makes up what they seek to control. The chaos of the Cainite world is something to overcome, as well as a shield. Let them fight and quarrel. While their backs are turned, every ship leaving Napoli’s harbor is slipping into our grasp.
The Coterie of Lineage
Bloodline stands in for family in this coterie, vampires made by the same sire or group of sires given a territory to hold and maintain. Brooded together, this coterie is often assigned a purpose by those responsible for their Embrace, though the coterie itself may report a different agenda altogether to outsiders who ask. Sharing the same sire may give a certain strength to this coterie, siblings in undeath. The patriarchal practices of mortals may spill over onto this type of coterie, with sires sending their childer to live in the broods of allies for training, resulting in mixed Clan coteries.
The Coterie of the Disaffected
Some vampires, once released from bonds of their sires, try to strike out on their own, severing ties between themselves and the society of Cainites they were brought into. Operating as openly as they dare, these coteries drift on the tumultuous ocean that is the War of Princes, occasionally dragged down to the depths or destroyed by sudden storms. Other coteries are made up of vampires trying to prove themselves to vampire society after their sires have lost favor, doing anything in their power to remain in good standing with those with more influence.
The Coterie of the Wayfarers
Many roads cross the Dark Medieval World and many vampires make use of them. Reasons innumerable tempt individuals to a dangerous and nomadic lifestyle. Holy war shifts armies from battlefield to battlefield. Shrines beckon pilgrims. And of course, there is money to be made. All the treasures of Europe, Africa and Asia lie in wait. All a vampire has to do is get there. Of course, one must convince many it would be worth their while to come to a moonlit market or have unquestioning servants to vend during the daylight hours.
This list is by no means exhaustive and players aren’t required to pick one of the aforementioned Coteries. Oftentimes, people join groups for their own reasons and your vampires may find their own common reason for banding together. Share ideas among your group and with the Storyteller to flesh out the group dynamic and dependencies between players.
The Dark Medieval World
Just as in the modern world, certain dichotomies exist in the time your characters are living. They lie within society, events and individuals proving one holds sway over the other, the pendulum swinging back and forth. One is usually aspired to more than the other and people scramble and climb to one side. Others sit in the balance, trying to reason what these two strengths mean, sometimes caught in the turmoil when things are thrown out of balance while more may see beyond these binaries and wondering what it can all mean. Your character may submit to one family of thought or struggle, having a wider view of time and therefore the hindsight to see…not everything is black and white.
Order and Chaos
In many faiths, the universe begins as Chaos. Through the words, thoughts or bodily fluids of deities, the universe is created and laws are given to the chosen inhabitants. Agents of Chaos such as Set, the Leviathan, dragons and others are often put into submission by deities, heroes or other goodly agents. Codes are given as a gift, in return for good stewardship of the earth and worship. People worship, build temples, make sacrifices, pray, sing, dance.
And yet bad things happen. Children grow sick and die while old men linger and curse their days. Crops fail, storms destroy, plagues gallop across the land. If those of order are sovereign as holy texts say, how can Chaos rear its head so often and so devastatingly? Is it through the fault of the worshipers? Is it the fault of non-believers, dooming their neighbors through lack of or misplaced faith? Can something be done to set things down the correct path? Or is Chaos part of Order, following it after just as winter followers autumn? If perfect, lasting order is to be obtained, shall it be bestowed by holy hands upon the righteous? Or must it be created, manipulated from the disorderly, rabid structure which is the medieval world? Time may give your character insight as to what is the correct path. Or least the correct path for them.
Good and Evil
Light and dark exists in the world and it also clashes within the hearts of of those who inhabit the earth. Cosmic good and evil lie in contention, tied to Order and Chaos. Good creates, is wise, treats others with kindness and gives. Evil destroys, is short tempered and near-sighted, disregards the well being of all it encounters over itself and consumes. Spirits and deities fall to one side of the spectrum or the other, occasionally employing or sweeping up humans in their fight to overcome the other. While religious stories are common battlegrounds for these epic battles, many happen within the heart.
Virtue is something to strive for in the human world. For some it is a way to a peaceful afterlife. For others, it is a way to honor their deities. For another, it can be a way to make sure all are treated fairly and well. A good life means something different for the Norselander in their longboat than the Zoroastrian priest before the fire. Where evil abounds, people are in pain and suffer. Where there is good, there is at least comfort.
Yet the good are rewarded with evil and the less than virtuous gain in the material world. Good often asks for restraint while evil indulges as long as it can. If the true reward is beyond this life, how long can it hold the attention of a soldier? A merchant? A scholar? A vampire? Who holds the vampire and their deeds in esteem? Who shall render their accounts when they have spent all their nights?
The vampire knows better than most that Good and Evil lie in the definition of the speaker, and that the rain falls on them all. The reasons for pursuing some moral code lies in the target they have their eyes set on.
Hierarchy is a part of the Order many people wish to see in the world. Many religions have spiritual hierarchies, with spirits, angels, demons and other entities answering to those above them. In society, it is the same. Noble families oversee their lands, those with the most faith and education rise up the ranks of religious orders.
Everyone else takes up the mantle of the position they have been born into. Born to rule doesn’t always translate to fit to rule and so power is misused and the people grumble. When pressed to the point of breaking, those at the bottom overthrow those at the top. War and plagues cause instability, making a rearranging of key players easier. Able to endure physical hardships more easily than most, the vampire can watch the rise and fall of many a ruler and surf the ebb and flow of power themselves. The waves never stay still for long and equality is not something to be sought after at this time. Who will you answer to? Who will you support in times of political upheaval? Or will you race to the front on the backs of those too weak to pull themselves there themselves?
Five Steps into Darkness
These five steps will guide you in creating your character. Perform them in whatever order results in an individual you are excited to play. For a quick reference, see page qks for a quick guide on building a character.
Keep these guidelines in mind when building your character.
Scope: Your character is of an age, gender and background of someone who could exist in the Middle Ages. The Silk Road stretches from Asia to Europe; religion and trade brings goods and people from kingdoms in Africa. The rules support a vampire who has been Embraced within the last few decades and has spent the last 20-30 years as a fledgling, under the wing of your sire. The assumption dictates the amount of power your character has at their disposal.
These numbers can be manipulated slightly to aid the story the Storyteller has in mind or to accommodate the backgrounds of other characters in your coterie. Be sure to discuss any changes to this time line with your group, lest a misunderstanding or omission lead to awkward play or broken characters down the road.
Details: Stories are not series of numbers in the same way you are not a list of your height, weight, blood pressure, etc. The numbers presented are here to help tell the story, to add suspense and represent what your character can do in easy and trying situations. Two characters may both be intelligent but one may be a braggart know-it-all while the other is a quiet calculator. In addition, the Storyteller may impose benefits or handicaps to characters, depending on the situation. The numbers on your character sheet imply the character. You breath life into them and play them out.
Step By Step: Every character gets the same amount of points to distribute among the various traits and abilities. At the end of the allocation everyone will receive freebie points to better realize the characters you had in mind. While your character may not be exactly able to do what you may want them to do, keep in mind gameplay will result in experience which can be used to improve your character as you see fit.
Scale: Most traits operate on a scale of 1-6, with 1 being deficient but not abysmal to 6 which is beyond what many humans could even deem possible. 2 is average for most individuals with numbers above ranking significantly better. Some traits rank from 1-10; they are further discussed in the chapter.
Teamwork: The game of V20: Dark Ages is one where a group of characters tell a story, together. Some characters may be more manipulative than others or more outspoken but as a player, don’t strong-arm and belittle other people’s roles. If you want to switch the focus of the game as a whole, talk it over with the group and figure out the best way to play it out. Better to resolve it together than burn the game at the stake.
In addition, bear in mind certain scenarios are not conducive to certain casts. Are you playing a game of political intrigue played out in the libraries of Persia? That’s probably not the best for Gangrel to undertake the endeavor. A setting of a small village where everyone knows anyone is not the best locale for urban-minded, cosmopolitan individuals looking to make a name for themselves.
Communicate with each other. Cooperate. The game will be better for it.
Storyteller, Troupe and Character
One individual in your group oversees the gameplay and action. This is the Storyteller. Before characters are created, this person will share their ideas for the tone and themes of the game and suggest the types of characters they believe will work best. Spend a session with the Storyteller and the rest of the group, sharing initial ideas for characters and how they may or may not fit with the story. As you discuss your ideas for your characters, you may hit upon how they’re all connected or why they’re willing to work together. Both Storyteller and player may augment their concepts according to what is said. If there’s something you would like to see happen, bring it up. Likewise, respect the Storyteller’s requests and suggestions. When you’re all on the same page, creation and execution will go much more smoothly.
Here are a few tips to make the creation process go more smoothly.
1. Listen to each other. The Storyteller may lay out everything in a few sentences or the group may discuss character and setting for a few hours, fine tuning the world you will be playing in. It will take longer if no one is paying attention. Repeating oneself is tedious and takes away from time that could be spent actually playing.
2. Respect each other. If a player or Storyteller says they’re uncomfortable running a certain type of game, or want to focus on certain clans or regions, listen and respect their wishes. Likewise, if you wish to avoid certain situations (ex. Violence towards children), say something.
3. Expect to look things up. Very few people will be able to memorize every rule put forth in this book. No one should be expected to. Seasoned players will be able to guide people through various steps and types of interactions but have the rules on hand in case. Bookmarks of some fashion may serve you well.
4. Take the time to get to know each other and the world you’ll be playing in. Plan to spend about a session discussing your character and how they’re connected to the world and other characters. Ask questions. Come up not only with abilities but histories, likes and dislikes, personal tics and irks. Building together will make you all invested in the story and hopefully have you leaving eager to play it out next time.
CHARACTER CREATION SUMMARY
Step One: Character Concept
• Come up with idea for character, including history, why Embraced, and her place in the Dark Medieval World.
• Choose Clan, Road, Nature, Demeanor.
Step Two: Select Attributes
• Rank Physical (Strength, Dexterity, Stamina), Mental (Perception, Intelligence, Wits) and Social (Charisma, Manipulation, Appearance) Attribute sets.
• Place one dot in each of the 9 Attributes. Disperse 7 dots among the primary Attributes, 5 among the secondary and 3 among the tertiary.
Step Three: Select Abilities
• Rank the Abilities (Talents, Skills and Knowledges) as primary, secondary and tertiary.
• Disperse 13 dots among primary Abilities, 9 among secondary Abilities and 5 among the tertiary abilities.
• Note: No Ability may have more than three dots at the end of this stage. May be raised at the end with Bonus points.
Step Four: Select Advantages
• Divide 4 dots among Clan Disciplines.
• Divide 5 dots among Backgrounds.
• Place 1 free dot in Road Virtues and Courage.
• Divide 7 dots among Virtues.
Step Five: Finishing Touches
• Set Road Rating equal to the sum of Road Virtues.
• Set starting Willpower equal to Courage.
• Set blood pool equal to the result of one die plus one dot for each dot in Domain and Herd.
• Set Generation at twelve minus dots in the Generation Background.
• Spend 15 freebie points, referring to the chart below to finish your character.
Bonus Point Cost
• Attributes: 5 freebie points/dot
• Abilities: 2 freebie points/dot
• Ability Specialties (max 3 per Ability): 1 freebie point/dot
• Disciplines: 7 freebie points/dot
• Backgrounds: 1 freebie point/dot
• Virtues: 2 freebie points/dot
• Road Rating: 1 freebie point/dot
• Willpower: 1 freebie point/dot
Step One: Character Concept
Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Perhaps some aspect of a clan or path put forth earlier in this book sparks your imagination. Maybe something you’ve read or heard about falls into place within the Dark Ages society, sparking an idea for a character.
The exact details of the character don’t need to strike you like lightening. Start with a person. Give them a desire and a reason to hope they may achieve their goals. You can sort out the why and how as you continue to create your character.
Consider your character. In life, they could have had any number of professions or lifestyles, from a miserable serf, cursing the field they are working to the most pious Cardinal, gazing over their adoring congregation. Refer to the three questions stated earlier in this chapter, ‘In Life I Was…,’ ‘My Sire Chose Me Because…’ and ‘Now I Spend My Nights…’ to lay an outline for the history of your character. The next section will help fill in the other parts of your characters personality, desires and motivations.
Inez is excited to play ‘A Dark Page Turns,’ a Chronicle established by her Storyteller and friend Bri. Bri has told the group the game will be a bit about information technology or lack thereof, spying, oracles and trying to figure out the truth about situations and events in their region. Inez likes the idea of an illiterate peasant who wants to learn to read and is taught to read by her future sire. The Teacher/Student dynamic is something she thinks would be fun to play.
Every vampire is made by a sire, stretching back to an Antediluvian and to Caine. Nature and Nurture by these sanguine families mean certain traits, characteristics and weaknesses are passed on from generation to generation. As the young observe and are trained by the old, they pick up the mannerisms and interests of the Clan, gravitating towards certain fields and circles of influence. Of course, every family has its black sheep and childer do have their rebellious streaks. Still, in a existence where connections can mean the difference between seeing the next evening, family ties are best left a bit frayed, not severed entirely.
Of course, not every vampire has a clan. Some characters belong to rarer Bloodlines; groups that may or may not descend from one of the Clans of Caine. Caitiffs, the orphans of the vampire world roam the earth. Some are abandoned, others are misled. With no one to answer to they suffer and benefit from their lack of attachment to Clans. Do they wield their Clanlessness like a weapon? Or fall victim to more organized Cainites?
Clan should be discussed with other players and the Storyteller. A player who wishes to be Clanless should discuss it within the group and make sure the Storyteller can work with the omission in the vampire’s heritage. Clan can remain a mystery to the character and even the player if handled properly.
Inez looks over the list of clans and considers her character’s sire/mentor. She wants to avoid her character being taught by any religious figures and decides her sire is a noble of some sort, a minor lord who has enough power to not be questioned when he takes a young girl under his wing. She decides to go with Ventrue.
Most aspects of the Curse of Caine are just that. A curse, forced upon an individual for reasons they may never know. However, the character may choose a Road which allows them to reconcile their individuality, their morals and their motivations with the Beast within.
There are many Roads to choose from, all described in detail in Chapter Three. As with many moral paths, institutionalized or not, the degree to which one adheres will vary from person to person. People’s desire for guidance (or excuses) change during different times in their unlife. Zeal often waxes and wanes, depending on circumstance and your character may find themselves exploring the road as the game plays out. In addition, meeting other observers of the same path or different paths will allow your character reference to compare their beliefs against and decide what they truly believe their life is now about. Clan is the family you are born into. Roads are more the family we choose to associate with.
Inez sees her character as having a religious bent similar to many in her time: harboring belief but no zealot out to Crusade. Having lived among peasants and seeing the good great philosophers and creators have brought to the world, she decides the Road of Humanity would fit. Her character isn’t power hungry; she simply thirsts for knowledge. Not to the degree she thirsts for blood, of course. She notes that the Road of Humanity subscribes to the Virtues of Conscience and Self-Control. She crosses off Conviction and Instinct on her character sheet.
Archetype: Nature and Demeanor
The face we show the world and the person we are in our heart of hearts. This is our Demeanor and Nature. These two aspects of ourselves reveal much about a character’s personality and will dictate how they are played. Nature not only reveals what is at the core of your character. When your character performs a task which satisfies your Nature, you are able to (re)gain Willpower. Demeanor may be in opposition to your Nature, a clever mask which allows you to fulfill your true desires more easily or a facade you put up to hide behind. How these two parts of yourself interact and lie in opposition will result in characters who show themselves to the world, Cainites who lie to themselves or to others as to who they are or something in between.
Inez has decided on the name Magda for her character, short for Magdalene. After considering the list of Natures and Demeanors, she settles on Defender for Nature and Pedagogue for Demeanor.
Step 2: Choosing Attributes
After getting a handle on who your character is, what they want and what drives them, it is time to assign numbers to their various Attributes. Attributes come in three categories. Physical Attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Stamina) all measure your character’s bodily potential. Social Attributes (Charisma, Manipulation, Appearance) measure your character’s ability to handle themselves in relation to others. Mental Attributes (Perception, Intelligence, Wits) deal with your character’s ability to process information and react.
Choose one set of attributes to be primary, one secondary and one tertiary, assigning them according to the vision you have for your character. Are they athletic (Physical primary)? Clumsy (Physical secondary or tertiary)? Do they talk back at every chance they get (Mental primary)? Able to hold a room in the palm of their hand with their voice (Social primary)? Stuttering and shy (Social secondary or tertiary)? Read the descriptions provided on page XX for more info on these individual Attributes.
All characters begin with one free dot in each Attribute (the exception being Nosferatu, who start with 0 dots in Appearance because of their curse). Then proceed to distribute your dots in the following manner:
• Distribute seven dots among your Primary Attributes
• Distribute five dots among your Secondary Attributes
• Distribute three dots among your Tertiary Attributes
In reading the descriptions, you may notice your character is exceptionally gifted in more than a few ways. Vampirism is a curse but is a boon to the undead body, mind and spirit, enabling it to do things it could only dream of in life and enhancing abilities which were already there. The curse gifts you with strange beauty and unknown vigor, abilities which almost mitigate the sting of the curse itself. Almost.
Inez wishes to play an intelligent character who spent time performing physical tasks when she wasn’t allowed to read. She makes her Mental Attributes her primary set, Physical her second and Social her third. Inez decides Magda is bookish and lacks in subterfuge or social graces. She chooses Intelligence 4, Wits 2, Perception 3 for her Mentals, Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3 for Physicals, and Charisma 2, Manipulation 1, Appearance 3 for Socials.
Step 3: Choosing Abilities
Abilities, like Attributes, fall into three categories. Talents (natural aptitude), Skills (abilities learned and practiced), and Knowledges (areas of expertise). Unlike Attributes, they are not natural parts of your character’s being but specialties they have gained through experience; as a result, you must assign at least one dot into an Ability if you wish to use it without penalty or to use it all (specifically, where Knowledges are concerned). Descriptions of Abilities are discussed on pages xcd-wd for reference.
Abilities are also ranked. Choose which set of Abilities will be primary, secondary and tertiary. An educated individual would most likely put Knowledges first while a rough and tumble blacksmith may put Skills ahead of Knowledges and Talents.
Assign dots to your primary, secondary and tertiary sets of Abilities, being sure to not place more than three in any one Ability during this step. Abilities may be raised later through use of freebie points.
• Distribute 13 dots among your primary Abilities
• Distribute 9 dots among your secondary Abilities
• Distribute 5 dots among your tertiary Abilities
Once again, the Curse of Caine affords the character the ability to excel in physical, mental and social fields, exceeding most humans and even some of your fellow vampires.
Inez puts Knowledges as Magda’s primary Abilities. Her ability to retain information and zeal for reading and research were the cause for her Embrace so that comes first. Talents come next; she spends her points on the more physical Talents, though Empathy is taken up; Inez figures Magda knows people hold information in their expressions and how they hold themselves. Skills come last. She can’t envision the peasant girl riding horses or fighting with swords all that often. Her sire had other people to fight and ride for them.
Step 4: Choosing Advantages
In this next step, your character will obtain powers more specific to Cainites, forming more of their vampiric self and place in society.
Disciplines are taught to a childe by her sire. Disciplines can also be learned by a vampire over the course of their unlife. Divide four dots among the Disciplines listed for your clan (chosen in step 1), choosing the ones which best suit your character. You may choose Disciplines not specific to your Clan later, but these may be purchased only with freebie points.
If you are playing a Caitiff, you may choose whichever Disciplines you choose, subject to Storyteller approval. Alternately, you may want them to offer you a pool to choose from, if it fits the story.
Inez looks to the Ventrue Disciplines, and notes that Dominate favors Mental Attributes and Abilities. She chooses Dominate 2, Fortitude 1, and Presence 1.
Adding Backgrounds deals with more external things which effect your character. The Backgrounds are all described on page XX. You have five dots to divide among the Backgrounds and whatever is chosen should make sense for your character. A young Cainite fresh out of the madrasa of Fez arriving in Spain probably wouldn’t have much in way of Allies, though they may have Contacts. Resources imply a source of sustainable income or a cache somewhere which is readily accessible, Mentors are for those willing to answer to others, etc.
Your group may pool Backgrounds as it serves the story and to make the most of what is available. Backgrounds which may be pooled are Allies, Contacts, Domain, Herd, Influence, Mentor, Resources and Retainer (see p. XX for details).
The Storyteller may wish to limit the Backgrounds available to your characters, in order to better tell the story. They may also encourage or require certain backgrounds. Since Backgrounds help to round our your character, it is useful and recommended that required Backgrounds be given for free to the players, allowing them to distribute the five dots as they see fit.
Inez decides Magda’s relationship with her sire is still fairly strong even though she has been released from their watchful eye. The Storyteller and Inez agree much of coterie’s adventures will be at the behest of her sire. She takes Mentor 3 Another player, Israel, decides his character is from the same village as Magda, more of a brutish but protective type. Inez takes Contacts 1 as a background, deciding she has written letters to others at the request of her sire and so has knowledge of individuals and their dealings in various locations. As well, she takes Generation 1 to start at eleventh Generation.
Each character has three Virtues. One concerns their resolution in perilous times. One dictates their moral compass and the last regards reaction to destructive impulses. These three weave together, a character’s recourse against the frenzied and impulsive reactions of the Beast within.
Two of your three Virtues will come specifically from the Road you have chosen earlier in character creation. These two Virtues will often run opposed to themselves, countering social obligation with selfishness, introspection as opposed to taking the larger picture into consideration. The third Virtue is Courage, a trait all vampires have. Players will start with one dot in each Virtue and then have seven dots to distribute among the three Virtues, as it fits their character.
Like many traits, Virtues run from one to five, where a rating of one is the bare minimum requirement and five means fulfilling the Virtue with excellence. The sum of dots in your Road Virtues determines your Road rating which will play a role in shaping what your character feels is morally wrong, spiritually defunct and will have an effect on those who sense her moral orientation (see Chapter 3 for details). Your characters Willpower rating will start out equal to your Courage. Keep this in mind when allocating points among Virtues and when you consider what to spend your freebie points on at the end of character creation.
Being on the Road of Humanity, Inez chooses the Virtues Conscience and Self-Control. She feels her character is more controlled than moral, so Magda starts with Self-Control 4, Conscience 3, Courage 3.
Step Five: Finishing Touches
By now, your character is virtually finished. You have created a character with a history and a presence, taking their characteristics and translating them onto the character sheet provided. Your have also given them desires and goals, somewhere to go and a reason to strive in the story to unfold. In the final step, you will round the character out so they are ready to be unleashed upon the world the Storyteller has placed you in.
The sum of your Road Virtues results in a Road Score. Road scores run 1-10, with a Road Score of 5 being the lowest possible for the average starting character. 5 implies a lack of self control, a lack of a handle of morality or direction and generally quickly results in succumbing to baser instincts and forgoing reason. Road Scores of 9 and higher imply an adherence coupled with zeal, closely following the tenets and a shining example to others. Most character will start with Road Scores between 5-7. You have taken direction but you aren’t riding the road hard. Gameplay will influence whether you veer to the side or take up the reins of your path and trample those not dedicated enough to keep up with you.
Magda’s Conscience is 3, her Self-Control 4, so she begins play with seven dots in the Road of Humanity.
Your character’s Willpower will dictate their ability to resist temptation and control their actions in trying situations. Measured on a scale of 1-10, a player will find it useful to raise their character’s Willpower higher than the average human’s score of 2-3. With far more to tempt the vampire and with the consequences which will surface if they succumb, raising this to 4 or higher is wise if you wish your character to last.
Magda has Courage 3, and Willpower 3. So, Inez notes that she’ll be setting aside some of her freebie points for additional Willpower.
The reserve of blood your character has to call upon to perform certain types of actions is called the Blood Pool. The maximum size of your Blood Pool is determined by your Generation (see page xc). Many people roam the Dark Medieval World in need of sustenance, never filling their bellies till completely sated and vampires are no exception. Since the opportunity to feed is sporadic, your starting Blood Pool is determined randomly. Roll one die and add either the Backgrounds Domain and Herd, but the total may not exceed the Generational maximum.
Magda is of the eleventh Generation, so she may have a maximum 12 blood pool. Since she does not have the Domain or Herd Backgrounds, Inez simply rolls a die and gets 2. That means she’ll be starting play starving.
Each player will receive “freebie” points to spend at the end of character creation to help better realize the character they have in mind. Consider what you wish your character to be able to do and look over your character sheet. Do the ratings match the person you had envisioned? Will they easily be able to perform tasks you want them to carry out or will they only be the person you want if you roll lucky the entire session? In addition you may have decided certain Attributes might be more important to your character’s story.
Referring to the chart on page bnc, distribute 15 dots among your Traits and Abilities. Bear in mind what raising certain Traits means for the world around you and your place within it. A rating of 3 in any Ability is mastery. A 4 or 5 places you above and beyond the abilities of most of those you will ever encounter. People notice these things.
Inez remembered that low Willpower score, and decided to spend five freebie points to raise Magda’s starting Willpower to 8 dots. She decides to put five more into raising Intelligence to 5 dots, and the last five to increasing Dexterity to 4.
The Spark of Unlife
You’ve come up with a character with a story and have broken down their abilities, determination and resolve into numbers. Now it is time to reconcile the numbers with the character you have in mind and decide how they will play out. Two characters may have the same Strength, able to lift and carry roughly the same amount. One will do this as often as they can, relishing the attention it garners them while the other merely offers to do the brunt of the physical labor. Two characters may have the same Knowledge but one’s may treat it cold and informally, facts gained from a book to be stored away for later while another loves to share information and gains knowledge through questioning people, experiencing as much as they can first hand.
Just because your character is is physically strong doesn’t mean they default to brute force in every situation. Which of your Abilities do you rely upon to get you out of tough situations? Which of your Abilities are you most proud of and why? Is it something you excelled at in your previous life, something you believe to be untouched by The Beast? Perhaps it is something which has been enhanced by your Cainite nature, making your Unlife worthwhile. How do you manifest Abilities you lack in? Do you make up for them in another area or hide your inability? Your Abilities may also complement the pool of one of your fellow players, making you natural allies during the Storytelling portion of the game. Or you may compete with another player, trying to be the smartest or strongest or most attractive in the coterie.
History, ability, personality, steeped in blood and ravenous for more of it. When all these aspects of your character are combined, who are you? You now have an answer.
Your character is ready. Now is the time for the Storyteller to ease all the characters into the story, focusing on each one with a short interval of play showcasing important aspects of your character such as who your contacts are, where you learned Coptic and Greek, etc. All of it culminates with the gathering of the coterie, waiting, sleeping until the first sun of the game slips below the horizon.
Chapter Five: Disciplines (Incomplete)
Celerity moves a vampire with unholy rapidity and grace. Characters with Celerity move nigh unseen in bursts of inhuman speed. This allows for remarkable performances, frightening quick assassinations, and travel unlike any in the Dark Medieval World.
System: Characters add their Celerity rating to their Dexterity-based dice pools, including their initiative ratings. Add her Celerity rating to the number of yards or meters she moves in a turn.
Additionally, they may reflexively spend one point of blood to ignore difficulty penalties for multiple actions up to their Celerity dots for the turn. For example, a character with Celerity 3 makes three actions before suffering +1 difficulty for multiple actions. This does not mitigate the dice pool reduction, however. A number of these additional actions equal to half their Celerity (round up) may be attack actions.
Lastly, by spending one blood point, she may multiply her movement speed by 1 plus her Celerity dots. In combat, this lasts one turn. Otherwise, it lasts the scene.
Normally, celerity dots simply make the vampire faster and increase the Discipline’s numerical benefits. At elder levels, 6 and higher, the character’s Celerity may develop normally, or she may progress into more specific powers, like the examples below. As with other elder powers, she may take multiple such gifts; the linear, numerical progression is considered one such option.
With this power, the Cainite may apply her speed to objects she throws, forcing them forward faster than the greatest longbow.
System: Spend a blood point. Then, choose an amount which to reduce your character’s Celerity for the turn. The character throws a weapon like normal. If successful, add that number of automatic successes to the damage dice pool.
(7) Flower of Death
With this monstrous ability, the vampire has mastered using her Celerity in combat situations. Every blow lands exactly where she wishes.
System: Spend four blood points. For the remainder of the turn, instead of adding her Celerity to her Dexterity-based dice pools, the vampire achieves that many automatic successes on all Dexterity-based dice pools. This includes any multiple actions she takes.
(8) Time Out of Time
The vampire at this level thinks a moment before everyone around her, and her reflexes carry her vast distances before others can blink. She can bolt out of the way even as a blade grazes her flesh. This makes her nigh-untouchable when she wishes to be.
System: Spend three blood points reflexively to activate this power. It may be activated even after an attack roll is made, but before damage is rolled. Once the power is activated, all action stops and your character can move her full movement speed before the other action resolves. This takes the place of a normal defensive maneuver. This almost certainly prevents the action from taking place, as the vampire appears to teleport out of the way.
All vampires shrug off wounds that might kill mortals. But vampires with Fortitude become veritable juggernauts, unstoppable by anything but fire and sunlight. Every vampire manifests Fortitude differently. Some simply possess too solid flesh; nothing punctures their statuesque beauty. Others ignore the trauma, their bodies continue to move regardless of the harm caused. No matter how Fortitude manifests, it’s a frightening prospect to any mortal witness.
System: A character’s Fortitude rating adds to all her Stamina-based dice pools, including her soak rating for bashing and lethal damage. A vampire may use her Fortitude dice as a soak pool against aggravated wounds, which vampires typically have no recourse against. Once per turn, she may spend a blood point to automatically soak her Fortitude in damage, instead of adding it to her Stamina. This can be used to soak aggravated damage as well.
As with Celerity, an elder with six or more dots of Fortitude may continue progressing numerically into greater levels of Fortitude, or she may instead choose to take specific, unique powers for her higher dots.
(6) The Knight’s Bane
The advanced practitioner of Fortitude’s flesh stands as indiscernible from wrought iron. When struck with mortal weapons, they shatter on impact. When struck with mortal hands, the mortal’s bones and flesh suffer as if his blow hit armor.
System: Spend two blood points to activate The Knight’s Bane for the scene. When struck with a weapon, if your soak roll reduces damage to zero, The Knight’s Bane destroys the weapon. Additionally, when struck by an unarmed attack, apply your soak successes as bashing damage to the attacker.
(7) The Blessing of Vitality
This ability, developed by a Salubri warrior, allows a master of Fortitude to bless another with her preternatural resilience. To give the blessing, she paints a small mark of blood upon her subject’s forehead, on the seat of the third eye.
System: To activate the power, the vampire spends one blood per dot of Fortitude she wishes to bless upon another (up to a limit of her own dots), and a single point of Willpower. Roll Stamina + Survival, difficulty 8. Consult the below chart to determine the duration:
1 One Turn
2 One Scene
3 One Night
4 One Week
5 One Month
6 One Year
Note that this can bestow Fortitude beyond the subject’s normal trait limit. This replaces any Fortitude he already has; it does not add to it.
(8) Armored Flesh
At this phenomenal level of Fortitude, your character’s skin is like steel, and is just as durable. She can touch white hot metals without suffering harm, and her hands and legs are as unto warhammers.
System: Spend two blood to activate Armored Flesh for the scene. Outside of combat situations, your character suffers no damage from mundane temperatures, blades, or impacts. While a tongue of flame will still affect her, she can forge soften metals with her bare hands. Her unarmed attacks cause Strength + Fortitude in bashing damage. Lastly, she may block any bashing, lethal, or aggravated attack with her bare hands.
The Tzimisce claim kingship not from heavenly mandate, but from the land itself. They are the lords of their realms and all who dwell thereupon; since the First Days they have shared their blood with the earth, intermingling their spirits with those of their voivodes, until they are one in the same. And those who have studied the ways of koldunism, the most ancient of Cainite blood magic, elevate this mastery yet further, having bound the spirits of their sourcelands to themselves. These koldun, as they are known, manifest the raw power of the natural world through their physical forms, as if their flesh were the land itself.
Only Tzimisce may be koldun, and even then, none are born into it. Koldunic sorcery is always learned as an out-of-clan Discipline. Similar to Thaumaturgical Paths, koldunic sorcery is divided into kraina, a slavic word for land, which are as varied as the demesnes the Tzimisce rule over; a sorcerer from the windswept peaks of the Tatras will practice different magic than those dwelling amid the hills and pine forests of Samogitia, or their coastal brethren who feel the tides of the Black Sea rippling through their veins. A koldun may learn the magic of many krainas, but they will always have one greater than the rest, that which corresponds to their sourceland – the place whose native soil they rest most comfortably in. Upon earning their first dot in Koldunic Sorcery, the koldun learns the first power associated with their primary kraina. With each new dot, they may take the next power in a kraina they already know, or learn the first power in a new kraina. Regardless, it will always be easier for them to use magic from their primary kraina. There is also a spirit kraina, known as the Genius Loci; many koldun learn this kraina, for it greatly expands their power, but none have it as their primary.
To cast their magic, the koldunic sorcerer must offer up a point of blood to the land and then roll Attribute + Occult against a difficulty of the power’s level + 4. If the power is within their primary kraina, the difficulty is reduced by two. The Attribute to be rolled is specified by the power itself; koldun always use their raw Attribute, unmodified by the expenditure of blood, Disciplines, or other vampiric magic.
Below are a pair of kraina, as well as the Genius Loci. Players are encouraged to create their own kraina, to reflect the unique qualities of their homelands, using the following to guide them.
The Transylvanian Kraina
Koldun of the Transylvania region practice the following magics.
• Burebista’s Throne
Legend has it that King Burebista, who terrorized the Greeks for centuries – first as the mortal king of Dacia, and later as a mighty koldun – built a great throne atop a mountain peak from which he could survey all his lands…and track the movements of all his enemies. The legend is true, though in time Burebista no longer needed the throne to observe his kingdom. To his childer he passed on this secret, and today most every koldun of the Transylvanian kraina can sit upon his throne.
System: The koldun spends a blood point and makes the activation roll (Attribute: Perception). If atop any mountain in Carpathia, there is no need to expend blood. On a success, the koldun can send his senses soaring high into the air, or extend them beyond their body; how far depends on how many successes are rolled (see below). This effect lasts until the koldun pulls back their senses, or the scene comes to an end.
1 A 50 yard radius
2 A one-hundred yards radius
3 A quarter mile radius
4 A one mile radius
5 A five mile radius
•• Pietrosu’s Hospitality
Mount Pietrosu is the highest, and most dangerous, peak in the Carpathians, where the biting winds and frigid temperatures will kill an unprotected man in mere moments. A perfect setting to destroy one’s enemies. Getting an unprepared foe up Pietrosu is quite difficult, however; much easier, the kolduns reason, to take the mountain with them.
System: The koldun must toss the requisite blood into the air (unless they are standing within sight of the Carpathians, in which case no blood expenditure is required) and make the activation roll (Attribute: Dexterity). If they succeed, a powerful, frigid wind arises all around the koldun for a number of turns equal to successes rolled. This wind causes one level of bashing damage each turn and numbs the bodies of anyone except the koldun caught within, reducing their movement by half and Dexterity pools by two. On the turn after this power expires, the Dexterity penalty is reduced to one and movement is three-quarters, and the turn after that the victim regains full Dexterity and mobility. A useful side effect of this power is that the koldun is immune to the cold and force of wind while this is active; when trekking in mountains or other environs where wind may be hazard, they need only activate Pietrosu’s Hospitality to ward themselves from danger.
••• The Banks of the Bâsca
When the rains come in the Carpathians, the Bâsca leaps its banks and whole villages are swept away…along with any person, living or dead, unwise enough not to seek higher ground. The koldun wielding this power carries with her the surging might of the Bâsca where ever they go.
System: The koldun releases their blood into running water – a river or stream is most common, though a rivulet or even just run off from thawing snow is enough – and rolls to activate this power (Attribute: Strength). On a success, the blood bolsters the flow, causing it to swell and surge forward, a flash flood given magical life. Anyone, as well as most anything not secured to the ground, caught in its path will be swept away towards the point of lowest elevation at a rate of a hundred yards a turn, and must soak five dice of bashing damage per turn. If a subject is somehow prevented from being carried downstream – wedged against a wall or other immoveable object, for instance – takes twice the normal amount of damage. Additionally, mortals must make a swimming roll (difficulty 8) each turn to avoid swallowing great mouthfuls of water; failure inflicts one additional level of damage which can not be soaked. These rushing waters last for a number of turns equal to successes rolled to activate, or twice that number if the source of the flooding is any Carpathian river.
•••• Kupala’s Exhalation
In the Berca basin, near the Eastern Orthodox monastery of Răteşti, vegetation ceases to grow and the strange gasses of the underworld bubble up into our world, forming tiny cones of mud that quickly harden while they exhale their frigid breaths. Some koldun have learned to summon these deadly gasses for themselves; they claim it’s the breath of Kupala himself. They may be right.
System: The koldun expends blood, at least one point’s worth but as much as they want, and rolls to activate this power (Attribute: Stamina). Once per turn, for a number of turns equal to the successes they rolled, to a limit of however much blood was spent, they may cause the gasses beneath the ground to erupt upward, forming a tiny volcanic crater. These gasses are bitingly cold; anyone caught within a ten foot radius of the cone is subject to the same damage and penalties as Pietrosu’s Hospitality. Even worse, the bubbling gas is highly flammable; any nearby flame will ignite the gas in a terrible explosion, inflicting five dice of lethal damage (aggravated to vampires) to all those within range of the cone. If this power is activated within the Berca basin, each blood point spent counts double.
••••• Restless Mediaș
From time to time the ground beneath the village of Mediaș will shake and roil, tearing buildings from their moorings, sometimes even killing the unwary. The locals blame the gods, but the koldun know it is Kupala, restlessly stirring within his earthen tomb. Those with the greatest skill know how to rouse his agitations.
System: The koldun spends a Willpower point in addition to the usual blood point and activation roll (Attribute: Strength). If used within sight of the Carpathians, no blood point expenditure is necessary. Each success allows the koldun to either affect a larger area (see below), or prolong the earthquake’s duration. Anyone and anything caught within range of the quake is subject to ten dice of lethal damage each turn they remain in its area of effect, and must make a Dexterity + Athletics roll (difficulty 8) or else be knocked off their feet. Most homes and simple structures will collapse after a turn or two; structures of sturdier construction, such as castles, take four or five turns to utterly destroy.
1 One home or a small building
2 Several buildings, as many as five
3 An entire street in a town or village
4 A large structure, such as a castle
5 An entire village, or a portion of a city
The Black Sea Kraina
Koldun of the Black Sea region practice these rites.
• Danubian Voices
The mighty Danube, that originates in the Black Forest and passes through a dozen nations en route to emptying into the Black Sea, has been the sustaining artery of countless empires for as long as people have dwelt upon its banks. And through all of them, the Tzimisce kept watch. The koldun know its true value, for the spirits of the river speak to them, passing on what they know or carrying messages for them in exchange for a taste of the vampiric sorcerers’ vitae.
System: The koldun drips the requisite blood into a river, stream, or other flowing waterway. Ofttimes just the runoff from thawing snow or a heavy rain is enough to make use of this power. If it is the Danube itself, or one of its tributaries, no initial expenditure of blood is necessary at all; the koldun’s long history with that mighty river long ago made unnecessary such formalities. They then make the activation roll (Attribute: Charisma); if they succeed, a spirit of the water appears to them and will serve them (such as they can) for a number of days equal to successes rolled. This duration may be extended any time before it expires by splashing the water with more blood; one blood point extends the spirit’s thralldom by an additional day.
What the spirit can do is quite limited; they can converse with the koldun, sharing whatever they know, and will be more than happy to do so – river spirits can be quite garrulous and the Tzimisce is advised to help lead the spirit to the topics they’re most interested in lest they be regaled for hours with prosaic descriptions of surrounding countryside – or they can give it a message to carry to someone or someplace else. The spirit is only capable of moving up and down their waterway (and upstream is much slower than down), so the recipient of the message must be someone they can encounter in their journey. A more sure method involves instructing the spirit to go to a place along its path and delivering the message to the first person they meet, though this obviously has its drawbacks as well. A koldun may also beseech a water spirit to remain in one place and watch for trespassers or other threats, then to move quickly along the riverbed to warn her of danger should any present itself.
•• Grave Of The Marea Neagră
The Scythians of old had their own name for the great sea around which they dwelt: axšaina, translated to our ears as unlit. Their description is apt; sunlight fails to penetrate much beyond the surface, and in the deepest portions, even air ceases to exist. It is, in many ways, the perfect sanctuary for a corpse, as attested to by the many ships and their crews preserved for eternity along its bottom…many of them put there by the koldun who dwell beneath the waves.
System: The koldun may always descend safely into the lowest depths of the Black Sea, where she may rest comfortably, protected from the sun and the outside world. By splashing her blood into a body of water large enough to contain her and making her activation roll (Attribute: Wits), she imbues that water with all the protective properties of the Black Sea. She can not be harmed by sunlight, her body is perfectly preserved for as long as she remains interred within, and she becomes extremely difficult to detect (Perception + Alertness, difficulty 8, must achieve more successes than the koldun rolled on their activation roll). Those who do attempt to uproot the submerged Tzimisce take two levels of lethal damage each turn they remain in the freezing cold water.
••• Pontos Euxeinos
The Greeks once called the Black Sea Pontos Euxeinos, the Hospitable Sea. For the koldun of the Black Sea kraina, it truly can be, holding them in its embrace and healing them of even their worst injuries.
System: The koldun must have access to a large enough body of water to submerge themselves in. Once submerged in the comforting water, they release the requisite blood into it (though if it is actually the Black Sea, no Blood Point expenditure is necessary), then make their activation roll (Attribute: Stamina). Each success may be allocated to healing just as if it were a Blood Point (1 success heals one level of Bashing or Lethal damage, 5 a level of Aggravated). This does not reduce the limitation of time upon healing; to heal aggravated damage, the koldun must remain submerged and at rest for a day per level healed.
•••• Minions of Deep Marmora
Legend says that the koldun Cyzicus, who ruled openly as king of the Dollonians in days of antiquity, discovered if he spilled his blood into the Sea of Marmora, strange beasts from its depths would emerge to do his bidding. Other koldun have found that any body of water serves the same, although the creatures that dwell in the deeps of Marmora are the strongest.
System: The koldun splashes his blood upon the surface of the water – at least one Blood Point, but as many as he chooses to spend – then makes the activation roll (Attribute: Manipulation). For each success, up to the total number of Blood Points spent – one minion emerges from the water. The Minons of Deep Marmora are strange humanoid creatures, combining the features of frog and fish. They will perform one task for the koldun, after which they are free to return to their watery abodes. Each minion may be given a different task to perform. Minions use the following stats (stats in parentheses are for those minions summoned from the Black Sea itself):
Attributes: Strength 4 (5), Dexterity 3, Stamina 4 (5), Charisma 1, Manipulation 1, Appearance 0, Perception 3, Intelligence 1 (2), Wits 2 (3)
Willpower: 3 Health Levels: Ok, Ok, -1, -1, (-1), -2, -2, -2, -5, (-5), Incapacitated
Abilities: Brawl 4, Dodge 2, Intimidation 3, Survival 3
Attack: Claws (Strength + 2, lethal), Grapple (Strength + 4, bashing), scales and blubbery flesh gives +2 dice to soak rolls.
Abilities: Minions of Marmora can breathe air or water equally well. They’re accomplished swimmers, moving as easily in water as out.
••••• Pontos Axeinos
Before the Greeks settled its southern shoreline, they called the Black Sea Pontos Axeinos, the Inhospitable Sea. For the enemies of the koldun, it can be very much that, birthing storms, whirlpools, fog, and rocky barricades where moments before there were none.
System: The koldun drips his blood into a body of water (unless it is the Black Sea, in which case no blood need be expended) and makes the activation roll (Attribute: Intelligence). They may allocate their successes to manifest any number of dangerous waterborne hazards for their opponents to deal with; some examples of what each success can accomplish: a whirlpool or undertow with a Strength rating equal to the koldun’s Strength x 1 that may seize or drag others, increase the current’s Strength multiplier by one, reveal jagged rocks that do Strength + 3 lethal damage when smashed upon, fog that increases all sight-based Perception difficulties by 2, driving winds and rain with gales up to 50 miles per hour, a precipitous drop in water temperature to near freezing levels, and so on. This power only ever lasts a scene, and then dissipates.
The koldun extends their awareness through the land upon which they they trod, becoming the Genius Loci of legend.
System: The player spends one point of Willpower in addition to the traditional expenditure of blood, then rolls to activate the power. Charisma is the governing Attribute. For each success, Genius Loci remains for one scene. While in effect, the koldun is aware of everything that transpires around them, out to a distance determined by dots in Genius Loci (see below). Even Obfuscate can not deceive the Tzimisce who has established themselves as a Genius Loci. Furthermore, the koldun may invoke any koldunic power they possess anywhere they can perceive, so long as the level of that power is equal to or less than dots in their Genius Loci ability.
• Perceive everything within a fifty-foot radius.
•• Perceive everything within a hundred-yard radius.
••• Perceive everything within a quarter of a mile radius.
•••• Perceive everything within a mile radius.
••••• Perceive everything within a five mile radius.
Mortals view Necromancy as a forbidden art, conflating it with demon worship. Necromancy is regarded with suspicion and fear among the Cainites. The Cappadocians alone practice Necromancy among the Cainites, with few exceptions.
Like Thaumaturgy, Necromancy is a form of blood magic that is divided into several paths. Each path represents a particular kind of research into the nature of death. The rarest forms of Necromancy –The Path of the Four Humors and the Vitreous Path– are guarded carefully by the Lamia and by the Nagaraja respectively.
Through a Glass Darkly: Ghosts, Magic, and the Underworld
Ghosts are the spirits of who, upon their death, had an attachment to the world or a quality of spirit that refused to yield to the grave. They live in a world parallel to our own –the Underworld. From the Underworld, one can see and hear into the world of the living, but those dwelling there (including Cainites traveling with powers such as Orphic Journey) are powerless to affect it without the use of their magics.
If a mortal saw the Underworld, he would recognize it. It resembles a nightmarish version of our own world, leached of color and life. The plants are dead and withered. The buildings are crumbling and decaying even if they stand in the living world. Even humans close to death will show the marks of death upon them. But the Underworld is more than just a dark reflection of our own world: it is a place all of its own, and the lands that resemble our lands are just the first layer of the Dark Kingdoms; realms of dream and nightmare lurk below the Shadowland where ghosts even fear to tread.
The dead live by their own rules, and form their own societies. They created their own twisted wonders, their own darkly beautiful arts. Perhaps of most interest to Cainites are the artifacts of the dead. If a location or an item was valued enough in the living world, and then was destroyed, it may appears in the form of a Relic in the Underworld –whole and in its full glory. Rumors suggest the Relic of the Colossus of Rhodes to be intact and standing tall somewhere in the Stygian depths of the Underworld; the Relic of the Tomb of Mausolus may serve as a revelry hall for the ghosts of long-dead satraps. But the kings and queens of the Underworld guard their treasures carefully. Even a powerful Necromancer may wish to think twice before stealing the treasures of the dead.
The Grave’s Decay
The dark hand of fate is a real force in the Dark Medieval World. The Path of the Grave’s Decay allows the necromancer to harness the dark powers of decay, ruin, and entropy that await all creatures, living and unliving.
• Ashes to Ashes
While some Cainites slaughter indiscriminately and fear no consequences for their actions, other Cainites feel the need to be a bit more discrete. The Dark Medieval is a violent place, and even some of the most devout adherents of the Road of Heaven might have the need to dispose of a body quickly. Use of this power turns a human corpse into a pile of unremarkable ash, roughly one-fifth the weight of the original body.
System: The player spends one blood point as the vampire drips her vitae onto the corpse. The player rolls Intelligence + Medicine (difficulty 6). The corpse disintegrates in a number of turns equal to five minus the number of successes rolled. These ashes are utterly unrecognizable via mundane means, though use of supernatural powers might be able to uncover the identity of the former corpse.
On a botch, the corpse putrefies, but loses none of its integrity. The vampire may not use Ashes to Ashes on that corpse again.
•• Rigor Mortis
With this power, the necromancer can make any target as stiff and still as a corpse. Only by sheer force of will can a target afflicted with Rigor Mortis move as his own muscles contract uncontrollably, freezing him into place.
System: The player spends a point of Willpower and rolls Intelligence + Medicine. Each success freezes a target in place for one turn. The target must be visible and within 25 yards. A frozen target cannot move of spend blood points, but he may use perception powers such as Heightened Senses. Cainites may take physical actions with a penalty equal to the necromancer’s successes.
••• Ashen Lady’s Embrace
The Ashen Lady’s Embrace causes a target’s limb to age, dry out, and wither like grapes left on the vine. Tendons snap as muscles shorten and shrink. Skin becomes first saggy and sallow, and then paper-thin and pulled tight over the newly brittle bones bones. Eyes cloud over and dissolve into dust. Cartilage all but vanishes. The lips and gums recede, and the teeth become as chalk.
System: The player spends a Willpower point. The character touches one of her victim’s limbs (requiring a Dexterity + Brawl roll if the victim is avoiding the vampire). If the invoker is successful, the target suffers from two levels of aggravated damage. Unless the target soaks both wounds (e.g., with Fortitude), the afflicted limb is crippled until both wounds are healed. Cainites heal these wounds as they would any other aggravated wound (see p. XX). Mortals, however, are not so fortunate; they will be crippled for life unless healed by supernatural means. The targeted mortal may take some small comfort in knowing that a crippled limb will not degenerate further (i.e., become gangrenous or infected).
The effect of the Ashen Lady’s Embrace will depend on which limb is targeted. Crippled limbs cannot benefit from Potence. Crippled arms cannot carry anything heavier than roughly half a pound. A character with a crippled leg will limb slowly, dragging his leg behind him, and will suffer from the Lame Flaw (see p. XX). If an invoker chooses to target the face, she may choose to affect either the eyes, ears, or mouth. Any successful attack at the face will reduce a target’s Appearance by one for each wound suffered, with additional effects depending on which part is targeted. A single withered eye or ear imposes a +1 difficulty on relevant Perception rolls; losing both eyes or ears imposes the Blind or Deaf Flaw as appropriate (see pp. XX and XX). A withered tongue will render one Mute (see p. XX).
•••• Gift of Melancholia
This power inflicts a virulent wasting illness on mortals and Cainites alike. Both are afflicted with a disease that causes dizziness, weakness, malaise, and nausea. The disease is highly contagious among mortals, who can spread it to each other by mere proximity; a vampire must either be directly targeted with the power or feed on an infected mortal in order to contract it. An infected vampire, however, will spread the plague to everyone he feeds upon until he is cured.
System: The player chooses a target who must be within twenty yards and in the character’s line of sight. She rolls Intelligence + Medicine (difficulty 6) and spends a point of Willpower. The defender must roll Stamina (+ Fortitude, if applicable) against a difficulty equal to the attacker’s Willpower. If the victim rolls fewer successes than the attacker, he falls ill immediately. The disease has the following effects:
• Strength and Wits are halved (round down).
• Dexterity is decreased by a single point.
• Cainite victims must spend an additional blood point to awaken every evening; mortals take one level of lethal damage per day.
• Cainite victims must roll Self-Control or Instinct every time they feed (difficulty 8). On a failure, the vampire vomits up the blood he just ingested in a horrifying gout of gore, losing any benefit the feeding would have provided. Humans vomit up the contents of their stomachs, with no rolls to resist.
• Once per day at sunset, a victim may attempt to throw off the plague by rolling Stamina. The difficulty is equal to 10 minus the number of days elapsed since contracting the disease.
••••• Dust to Dust
As Ashes to Ashes affects corpses, so Dust to Dust affects the bodies of vampires. Invoking Dust to Dust allows a necromancer to reduce another vampire into a pile of ashes, as though he had been stranded in the sunlight or burned at the stake.
System: The necromancer cuts open her own skin, spending two blood points and a point of Willpower. She then drips the blood on a single Cainite target. The vampire must be within touch range of the target; it cannot be flung from more than arm’s reach. The player rolls Willpower against a difficulty of the target’s Stamina + 3. For every success, the target suffers one aggravated wound.
The undead flesh damaged by this power is rendered into dust. For every two health levels of damage inflicted against a victim, the player may choose a body part to target and destroy, as per Ashen Lady’s Embrace. Body parts regenerate when the aggravated damage associated with the wounds is healed.
The Mortuus Path
The corpse is the sacred gateway between the living and the dead. Through careful study and ritual, the Cappadocians have learned ways to apply some of the aspects of a corpse to a vampire or mortal.
• Mortuus in Vultus
A Cainite can make herself or another vampire appear as if they were a long-dead corpse. This ability can be used to hide in plain sight in a catacomb or crypts, or it can be inflicted on an unwilling victim as a sort of curse.
System: The player spends one point to give herself the visage of a mummified corpse. She loses two points of Dexterity and Appearance (minimum of 1 in Dexterity and 0 in Appearance) for the duration of the power. The player also gains a bonus of two extra dice to her Intimidation pool. If she remains perfectly still (no roll required, as Cainites have no autonomic functions to suppress), an observer must score five successes on a Perception + Medicine roll (difficulty 7) in order to distinguish her from an ordinary corpse.
To inflict Mortuus in Vultus on another vampire, the invoker must spend a blood point, touch the target (requiring a Dexterity + Brawl roll if opposed), and then make a Stamina + Medicine roll with a difficulty equal to the target’s Stamina + 3. Mortuus in Vultum lasts until the next sunset or until the invoker releases the spell.
•• Algor Mortis
With the use of Algor Mortis, a vampire is able to transform herself into a cool, melancholy creature, unmoved by mortal pain or emotional manipulation. Her body transforms in a literal sense; her flesh becomes colder, her breath freezes in the air when she speaks.
System: For the cost of a single Willpower point, a player may ignore all wound penalties for the scene. She gains an additional die to any pools that involve resisting emotional manipulation for each dot of the Mortuus Path, such as Intimidation or Empathy. Her remoteness also makes it difficult for her to manipulate others, however, and she increases by one the difficulty of all attempts to manipulate others. Algor Mortis does not ward against frenzy, however. Though the invoker may appear apathetic and cool on the surface, the Beast still lurks in the dark recesses of her heart.
••• Intimations of Mortality
Intimations of Mortality is used to inflict the more unpleasant and irritating aspects of mortality upon a vampire. These experiences are culled directly from the Discipline user’s memory and include such experiences as mortal hunger and thirst, the need to eliminate, poor sensory acuity, and vulnerability to physical trauma that even a neonate vampire could shrug off.
System: The player targets another vampire within her character’s line of sight that is no further than 20 yards away. She spends one Willpower and rolls Intelligence + Medicine (difficulty 8). If she is successful, the target is afflicted with all of the unpleasant sensations of mortal life without gaining any of the benefits thereof (e.g., walking in sunlight). All actions the victim takes are at a +2 difficulty. The victim can ignore these penalties at a cost of one Willpower per scene. Furthermore, the victim cannot use blood to raise his Physical Attributes (as described on p. XX), and Willpower cannot eliminate this penalty. Potence, Celerity, and Fortitude are not affected by Intimations of Mortality. The curse remains in effect until the next sunrise.
•••• Benedictio Mortem
With this power, a necromancer more fully assumes the aspect of a corpse and is able to slough off the weaknesses of his vampiric condition. A corpse, after all, is not particularly affected by the rays of the sun, nor is it especially flammable.
System: The player spends one Willpower and rolls Stamina + Occult (difficulty 8). For every success rolled, she gets the benefit of Benedictio Mortem for one turn. While Benedictio Mortem is active, a vampire needn’t make Rötschreck or Frenzy checks; being staked through the heart is no more dangerous to her than any other stab wound; fire deals lethal rather than aggravated damage; and holy artifacts do not faze her.
Sunlight does not affect a vampire under the cloak of Benedictio Mortem unless her bare skin is exposed on a clear day, and in that case, she only takes bashing damage. Once the protection Benedictio Mortem expires, however, the vampire immediately becomes vulnerable to the aforementioned dangers.
••••• Benedictio Vitae
With Benedictio Vitae, a Cainite is able to enjoy many of the best aspects of mortal life without forsaking the power of her vampiric nature. The voice of the Beast speaks only in a whisper, and she may enjoy the pleasures of mortal food and drink. She may enjoy the embrace of a lover as she once did while alive, and feel the warmth of the sun on her skin as a living woman would. Cappadocians who use this discipline temporarily released from their clan’s weakness, and appear as they did before the Embrace.
System: The player must spend twelve blood points to activate this power. They needn’t be spent in a single turn, but they must be spent continuously. A player may feed while simultaneously spending blood. Unless the vampire is older than Seventh Generation, having a sacrificial victim close by may be necessary to invoke Benedictio Vitae. She can travel in daylight with little fear; she takes no damage from sunlight if she is in the shade or suitably covered (as in a hooded cloak). She is not compelled to slumber during the day, but she is still vulnerable to being staked in the heart and is still repelled by holy artifacts. Though the voice of the Beast is not as insistent as it usually is, Benedictio Vitae does not silence it utterly. An invoker is still affected by Frenzy and Rötschreck, though the difficulty of both checks is halved (rounded up).
The Beast deeply resents being caged, however, and exacts its vengeance upon its jailer when it is freed. After the Benedictio Vitae expires (it lasts until the next midnight), the difficulty of all rolls to resist Frenzy and Rötschreck for the next six nights increases by three.
The Path of Bone
The Path of Bone explores those vestiges of life that remain in a corpse after death. The ease with which a corpse to regain a semblance of life fascinates some necromancers, who have made extensive studies of cadavers and mortals. The fruits of their research have strong practical applications as well, as shown below.
• Seal of Abamixtra
By invoking the Seal of Abamixtra, a necromancer can raise a corpse or group of corpses to perform a simple task. The corpses remain animate until they complete their task, at which point they collapse in a singularly inelegant fashion, or until they are destroyed. If attacked, the corpses will not defend themselves in any way and will continue to work at their appointed task. Corpses animated by the Seal will gradually decay, albeit at a slower rate than a normal corpse. If the task has an indefinite duration, they will continue to work at the task until they rot away into a pile of bones.
System: The player rolls Wits + Occult (difficulty 7) and spends one blood point. For every success, she may choose to animate one corpse. She may give them a single command. These animated corpses have no judgment or intelligence and will follow any instruction literally. They can follow straightforward commands. “Sweep this room every day until the dust and cobwebs are gone” or “Hold this door shut indefinitely” are suitable commands; “Subdue any mortals who enter this room” or “Construct a shed” are not.
They have Physical Attributes at half the vampire’s Necromancy dots, rounded up. They have no Abilities. Their Health Levels are OK, -1, -3, Incapacitated.
•• Awaken the Homuncular Servant
With this power, a necromancer can take a small piece of a corpse transform it into grotesque sort of familiar. The homuncular servant is typically a severed human hand, though there are some who prefer to use rolling eyeballs or hopping severed heads. Regardless of the form it takes, the homuncular servant is preternaturally quick and possessed of a sort of animal cunning and mild intelligence. It can hide easily, and knows how to evade detection.
Even if it has no sensory organs, a homunculus can see and hear anything that goes on around it. It is capable of relating what it sees to its master in a crude, wordless sort of telepathy. It is unfailingly obedient to its master, but it possesses no volition of its own. Some necromancers prefer to animate small dead animals instead of human appendages; these are referred to as feraculi rather than homunculi. A feraculum moves in an uncanny fashion similar to a homunculus and retains little of the traits it possessed as a living animal. A feraculum bird cannot fly, for example, but it can scale walls and hop like a homunculus.
System: The player spends a blood point and rolls Intelligence + Occult (difficulty 7). A single success all that is needed to gain a familiar with the statistics described below. The homunculus cannot carry anything, but small items such as jewelry may be attached to it.
The homunculus must remain within 100 yards of its master or it will cease to move until the master comes within range again. The homunculus remains active for one night per success on the initial roll. There is no limit to the number of times a particular homunculus can be re-animated; some of the more eccentric Cappadocians keep “pets” that have served them for years.
The homunculus can be killed in combat like any other creature, and is as vulnerable to bashing damage as any mortal. Use the homunculus statistics from p. XX to reflect this creature.
••• Shambling Hordes
With the use of this power, a necromancer can create a group of walking dead minions to attack her enemies.
System: To activate this power, the necromancer rolls Wits + Occult (difficulty 8). For each success rolled, she may spend a blood point and raise two corpses to fight for her. She can immediately order them to attack, or she can give them standing orders (e.g., “Attack anyone who enters this room!”) The corpses will retain their integrity for centuries if need be; they are supernaturally bound to carry out her commands even if their bodies would have normally crumbled into dust. Use the walking dead stats from p. XX to reflect these creatures. For one additional blood point per corpse, the vampire may add a number of Physical Attributes equal to her Necromancy dots to the monsters.
•••• Baleful Exorcism
With but a word and a forceful gesture, a necromancer is able to exorcise a mortal’s soul from his own body, effectively making him a ghost for the duration of the power. His only tie to the mortal world is his comatose body, placing him at the mercy of the necromancer who exiled him.
System: The necromancer spends a point of Willpower and makes a contested Willpower roll against her target. The number of successes she wins over her target indicate the number of hours that the soul is banished from the body. After this time, the soul is free to return to the body, assuming that no other spirits have taken up residence in its absence (see Daemonic Possession below).
This power cannot be used on Cainites or other supernatural creatures (save for ghouls).
••••• Daemonic Possession
Daemonic Possession allows a necromancer to channel a soul into a freshly-dead body. This power can be used to give a physical body to a disembodied spirit such as a ghost or a vampire using Psychic Projection.
System: The body in question must be a corpse that is still warm and has not yet gone into rigor mortis. Alternatively, the body may be a vessel that has been prepared either by Soul Stealing (above) or Prepare the Vessel (p. XX). The necromancer cannot force a soul into a body, but it is worth most ghosts hunger for a chance to walk the earth again, and many necromancers will use Daemonic Possession as a bargaining tool with the restless dead. If the body in question is the body of a vampire in the moments before it is reduced to ash, the necromancer must achieve five successes on a contested Willpower roll against the original owner of the body in order to proceed with possession.
The soul retains may use whatever physical abilities or Disciplines (such as Potence) that the body possessed in life. He retains whatever mental abilities or Disciplines (such as Presence) that he possesses.
The Path of the Sepulchre
The Path of the Sepulchre involves perceiving, communicating with, and ultimately commanding the spirits of the restless dead. The Sepulchre Path and the Path of Ash are common paths for Cappadocians (and especially the Giovanni) are expected to know at least the fundamentals for communicating with ghosts.
Power and Passion
As ghosts are creatures of passion, they are metaphysically linked to the people and things that they care about. When a vampire is in the presence of a physical object or person that is strongly meaningful to a ghost (such as the gallows where they were hanged, the home that they built with their own hands in life, or a beloved relative), any attempts to summon a ghost are reduced in difficulty by 2.
• Peering Across the Shroud
The dead walk among us unseen and unheard. To command them, a necromancer must be able to perceive them. Witness of Death allows a vampire to see and hear the dead. She cannot touch them; they appear hazy and indistinct to her eyes, and they speak in soft whispers or echoing moans.
System: The player rolls Perception + Awareness (difficulty 5). Failure has no effect; a botch means that the character is stricken blind for the scene. Success means that the vampire can see ghosts for the remainder of the scene. There is a catch, however. The eyes of a vampire who is using Peering Across the Shroud glow bright blue to a ghost’s vision, and like most people, ghosts don’t like to be spied on.
•• Summon Soul
Summon Soul allows a necromancer to summon a ghost back from the underworld in order to converse with him. In order to do this, she must fulfill a few requirements: first, she must either know the ghost’s name or have a strong mental image of its appearance (such as one obtained through Peering Across the Shroud or other supernatural means; an image of the ghost’s appearance in life will not work). Secondly, an object or person that the ghost had close contact with in life must be present (using a piece of the ghost’s corpse works well and gives a -1 difficulty modifier). Finally, the deceased must actually be a ghost. Not everyone becomes a ghost upon their death –indeed, the vast majority of people do not, instead going on to their final reward or punishment– and even if they do, many ghosts suffer spiritual destruction or dissolution at the hands of Oblivion. Cainites almost never become ghosts upon Final Death.
System: The player spends one blood point and rolls Manipulation + Occult (difficulty 7 or the ghost’s Willpower, whichever is higher). One success is all that is needed to summon a ghost.
If a summons is unsuccessful because the ghost does not exist, the necromancer will have a feeling of sudden, terrifying descent as they reach too far into the Great Beyond. A botch will summon a ghost other than the one specified –most likely a malevolent, Oblivion-worshipping specter that may impersonate the intended ghost and lead the necromancer astray.
Once summoned, a ghost may not move out of sight of the necromancer, though he may attack her or her allies. The vampire may dismiss the ghost by spending a point of Willpower–otherwise, the ghost vanishes at the end of the scene.
If summoned, the ghost is under no compulsion to answer the vampire truthfully.
••• Compel Soul
Using this power, a vampire can bend a ghost to her will for a short time. This ability requires supreme confidence, as a failure of resolve can lead to disastrous consequences for a necromancer.
System: The vampire must be in close proximity to a ghost in order to command it. She may approach the ghost herself, but most necromancers consider this gauche and will use Summon Soul if possible. In order to gain power over the ghost, the necromancer must hold an object handled by it in life as described in Summon Soul above. The vampire then spend a blood point and rolls Manipulation + Occult contested by the ghost’s Willpower (difficulty 6 for both rolls).
The net successes gained by the vampire determine how much control the vampire has over the ghost (see below). Instead of issuing a command to a ghost, the vampire may ask it a question: if she does so, the ghost must answer honestly and to the best of his knowledge. A compelled ghost may not attack a vampire or indirectly endanger her, though he is under no compulsion to aid the vampire unless specifically requested to do so. If the vampire attacks the ghost directly, the compulsion will end immediately.
If the ghost wins, the vampire loses a number of Willpower points equal to his net successes, and the vampire is unable to use any necromantic powers against that particular ghost for the rest of the night. If the vampire botches, his current Willpower is halved (round down) and she is at a +2 difficulty penalty for the rest of the scene as she is assailed by confusing visions of her own death. If the ghost botches, he must obey the vampire as if the vampire’s player had rolled five net successes.
Net Successes Result
1 success The vampire commands the ghost to attend to a simple task. this task may not place the ghost in danger. The ghost is compelled to attend to the task immediately, but he may delay this by spending one point of Willpower per scene of delay. This task may take nor longer than eight hours to complete.
2 successes As above, but the vampire may give the ghost two commands instead of one. Alternatively, he can ask the ghost to perform one potentially dangerous task, so long as danger is not absolutely certain. The ghost may delay fulfilling his task by spending Willpower as above.
3 successes The vampire may issue three commands as above, or she may ask the ghost to perform and difficult or dangerous mission. The vampire may instead choose to ask the ghost to perform an simple extended task with a duration of one month. The ghost may resist the compulsion for one scene by spending a point of Willpower.
4 successes The vampire has three options: she may prescribe two dangerous or difficult tasks (as per two successes above); she order the ghost to perform a single assignment that is either complex, extremely dangerous, or both; she may also enslave a ghost for the purposes of performing an infinite number of simple, non-dangerous tasks for up to up to one month. If she chooses the final option, she may (by spending a point of permanent Willpower) enslave the ghost for a year and a day. The ghost may delay individual orders by spending Willpower, but he cannot delay enslavement.
5 successes The vampire may issue multiple orders that have a sum complexity or danger of five successes’ worth. As an alternative, the vampire may ask the ghost to perform virtually any task it is capable of performing as long as it can be accomplished within a single month, regardless of how dangerous or morally repugnant it is. The ghost cannot resist these commands by spending Willpower; he must obey immediately.
A necromancer uses the power of her blood to bind a ghost into an object or location. The ghost is trapped by the necromancer’s will; if he attempts to leave, he will risk his own destruction.
System: The player spends a blood point while the vampire draws a small circle in the ground (either in the location or around the object) with the blood. In order to bind the ghost, he must be present in her location –she may use Summon Soul for this purpose. She must also know the ghost’s name. The player rolls Manipulation + Occult with a difficulty of 4 + the target’s current Willpower (minimum difficulty 4). The difficulty increases by one if she wishes to trap the ghost in an object, but is decreased by one if she possesses a piece of the ghost’s corpse.
Each success binds the ghost for one night. The vampire may simply ignore her successes and bind the ghost for one week if she spend a point of Willpower; she may bind the ghost for a year and a day by spending a point of permanent Willpower. A ghost may attempt to leave the area by making an extended Willpower roll at difficulty 9 (four cumulative successes required). This is no easy task for the ghost, who takes one level of aggravated damage per roll attempted. If the ghost is reduced to zero health, he is hurled back screaming to the darkest depths of the Underworld to face horrible spiritual agony. The ordeal will last at least one month (if he survives it), during which time he cannot be summoned or otherwise contacted again.
With use of Torment, a necromancer may strike at a ghost’s incorporeal body as if he himself were a ghost. He remains in the land of the living, however, and a ghost cannot strike him in return.
System: The player rolls Stamina + Empathy with a difficulty equal to the target ghost’s current Willpower (minimum difficulty 4). Each success inflicts a level of lethal damage.
The Path of Ash
The complementary discipline to the Sepulchre Path, the Path of Ash gives the necromancer the power to travel to the Underworld, and to learn its secrets. It is a subtler and more refined art than the brutal Sepulchre Path, but it is also more dangerous; using the disciplines of the Path of Ash often leave a vampire vulnerable to ghostly magics.
Shroudsight allows a vampire to gaze directly into the Underworld. He can see the structures, objects, and ghostly inhabitants of that dark world, though he cannot interact with them physically.
System: The player rolls Perception + Awareness (difficulty 7). If she succeeds, necromancer may see into the underworld for a scene.
•• Tongue of the Dark Kingdoms
When uttering the Tongue of the Dark Kingdoms, a necromancer is able to converse with ghosts in the Underworld. This power may be used in conjunction with Shroudsight, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be; a necromancer can speak blindly if she desires.
System: To invoke Tongue of the Dark Kingdoms for one scene, a player rolls Perception + Occult and spends one point of Willpower.
••• Touch the Nether
While invoking Touch the Nether, a necromancer may stand on both sides of the Shroud; she manifests physically in the Underworld while remaining corporeal in the lands of the living. She can interact with ghosts and objects in the Underworld, and they can interact with her. This may appear confusing to living onlookers who see the necromancer climb an “invisible” ladder or get staked by an invisible opponent!
System: The player must spend a point of Willpower and succeed at a Wits + Occult roll (difficulty 7) to activate Dead Hand for one scene. If she wishes to extend the power for additional scenes, she may do so at a cost of one blood point per scene.
•••• Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo allows a necromancer to physically enter the Underworld. While in the Underworld, she appears as a particularly solid ghost. She can be injured, but only by things that would inflict aggravated damage to a ghost (the cruel soul-forged blades wielded by ghostly warriors, for example, or by certain ghostly magics). A vampire physically present in the Underworld can pass through solid objects in the living world at the cost of one lethal health level. She can remain thus incorporeal for a number of turns equal to her Stamina rating.
If slain in the Underworld, a vampire’s soul is swallowed by the Void. No ghostly magic or necromancy can reach her; she is gone forever.
System: To enter the Underworld, the vampire must draw a door in chalk or blood on any surface. She then spends two points of willpower and two blood points before making a Stamina + Occult roll (difficulty 8). If she succeeds at her roll, the door opens, and she (and she alone) may enter the Underworld.
If a vampire wishes to return to the living world, she may do so by spending a Willpower point and succeeding at a difficulty Stamina + Occult roll. But even if she succeeds, there are some part of the Underworld that are too far removed from the lands of the living to allow an easy return. If she wanders too far from the shadowed reflection of the living world and into the dark dream kingdoms of the Dead, she may find herself trapped.
Vampires in the Underworld must bring their sustenance with them; they cannot feed on ghosts without use of another power (such as Pishacha’s Feast, p. XX).
••••• Shroud Mastery
With this power, the necromancer is able to greatly aid or hinder the ability of ghosts to function in the living world. She may use this power to bolster the ghosts in her service, to stymie a ghostly assault, or as a favor to a band of ghosts who wish to interact with (or wreak havoc upon) the living world.
System: To exercise Shroud Mastery, the vampire spends two points of Willpower and makes a Willpower roll at difficulty 9. For every success on the roll, he is able to either reduce or increase the difficulty of all ghostly magics invoked in a half mile radius by 1. The effect fades at a rate of one point per hour. For every -2 difficulty (rounded up), impose a -1 difficult on other Necromancy powers and rituals.
The Path of the Twilight Garden
Known to outsiders as “The Path of the Four Humors,” the Path of the Twilight Garden is among the most closely-guarded secrets of the Lamiae bloodline. The Discipline arose from ritual practices of the Cult of Lamia, though like the Lilin themselves, the Path of the Twilight Garden has a martial bent.
• Whispers to the Soul
Merely a hearing the whisper of the true name of the Dark Mother is enough to drive mortals mad, and fill the hearts of the Cainites with terror.
System: A Lilin whispers one of the secret names of Lilith. Any single target within 100 paces and in the character’s line of sight will hear the whisper as if the invoker were speaking directly into his ear. The target must immediately make a Willpower roll (difficulty 8) or be tormented by nightmares and hallucinations for a number of days and nights equal to the invoker’s Manipulation score. This causes the target to lose two dice from all dice pools for the duration of Whisper’s the to Soul’s effect.
•• Kiss of the Dark Mother
The Lilin bites her tongue and fills her mouth with a foul, acrid mix of black bile and vitae. Her bite becomes even more terrible, and she can devour the life from her victims with ease.
System: The player spends a blood point as the vampire fills her mouth with the caustic substance. The next bite attack she makes thereafter deals double damage before soak is applied. This does not make feeding more efficient nor does it exacerbate the damage done by blood loss. The vampire’s bite remains potent for the rest of the night or until the vampire uses the ability.
••• Dark Humors
The Lamia are known for their athleticism and mastery of their bodies. Not only are they able to perform feats of incredible physical prowess, but they can manipulate the balance of humors in their body by sheer force of will. With the use of this power, a Lamia can transubstantiate her own vitae into any of four corrupted bodily humors, each with its own effect.
System: The player spends two blood points as the Lamia cuts open her skin (she may use a knife, bite her tongue, or simply rake her skin with her claws). She transubstantiates a small amount of blood into one of the humors described below. She may also use this as a defense against another vampire that is feeding on her, though the target needn’t ingest the humor for it to affect him; skin contact is all that is required.
The four humors are:
• Phlegmatic: Target becomes lethargic; all dice pools are reduced by two for the remainder of the scene.
• Melancholy: Target is plunged into deep despair; he may not spend any Willpower for the rest of the scene, and all Willpower rolls are made at a +2 difficulty.
• Sanguine: Target becomes prone to excessive bleeding; any lethal or aggravated wounds will deal an extra level of damage of the appropriate type on the following turn.
• Bilious: Target is poisoned and takes lethal damage equal to the invoker’s Stamina.
•••• Caul of the Neverborn
With the use of this power, the Lamia strengthens her connection to the black heart of the Dark Mother. By completely a short ritual wherein she drinks at least five points’ of blood from a cold corpse, she gains some of the hard-won strength and wisdom of the long-suffering Lilith.
System: The vampire drinks at least five points’ of blood from a cold corpse, then spends five points to invoke the power. She then transforms on a spiritual and physiological level; her eyes become solid black, her manner becomes distant and cold. She gains two additional soak dice and immunity to all wound penalties for the remainder of the scene. With a successful Perception + Occult roll (difficulty 7), she may see into the Shadowlands and speak with any ghosts there. Finally, she can immediately tell the relative health of any being she sees, as injuries and diseases manifest themselves vividly on a creature’s aura.
••••• Lament of D’hainu
The Lamia howls in agony, and the very earth trembles. A miasma of writhing darkness rises from the ground and ensnares her enemies. Those caught by the darkness are not physically bound, but are immediately stricken with emotional anguish so rich and raw that they seek to end their lives in the most expedient way possible.
System: The player rolls spends two Willpower points and rolls Stamina + Athletics, difficulty 7. For every success she rolls, the radius of Lament of D’hainu increases by five yards. If targets do not successfully dodge the Lament, they are overcome with despair and seek to end their lives immediately. Men will fall on their swords; lupines will tear out their own throats; mages will turn their magics against themselves. Cainites affected by the Lament are not driven to suicide, but rather fall into torpor immediately. Even if the target succeeds at the Willpower roll, he shakes off his suicidal urges, but is at a two die penalty for all actions for the remainder of the scene.
The Vitreous Path
This path, a closely-guarded secret of the Nagaraja, allows a necromancer to directly manipulate the energies of the Underworld and Oblivion itself. Most vampires outside of the Nagaraja have never heard of the Path, but more than a few Cappadocian scholars who would pay dearly to learn its secrets.
• Eyes of the Wraith
By invoking this power, the necromancer can see the world the way that the Restless Dead do.
System: The player rolls Perception + Occult, difficulty 6. She then gains the power of Deathsight as described in Ritual of the Smoking Mirror (p. XX).
•• Aura of Decay
The dark hand of entropy is everywhere. Everything around us contains the seeds of its own undoing. This power hastens the inevitable fate of any inanimate object caught within the necromancer’s dreadful aura, allowing the vampire to cause any object to decay into a ruined heap.
System: Invoking Aura of Decay requires no roll, but it does require expenditure of blood and therefore explicitly cannot be used by a vampire who has been staked. The aura extends approximately one yard away from the necromancer.
To invoke the Aura, the necromancer must spend at least one blood point. The speed at which the objects caught in the aura decay depends on the number of blood points spent:
Blood Spent Time to Ruin
One One week
Two One day
Three End of scene
Four Five turns
Five One turn
Anyone who attempts to use a doomed item is treated as if they rolled a botch. Items that are on the necromancer’s person (e.g., clothing) are exempt from the aura’s effects. The aura lasts for one scene. The aura has no effect on living creatures (though it feels unnaturally cold), but will decay nonliving organic matter such as wood or corpses.
••• Pischacha’s Feast
Pischacha’s Feast allows a vampire align her soul with the dark energies of the Void, and, in doing so, subsist on the ambient energies of entropy that permeate the haunted places of the world, or feed directly on the corpus of a ghost.
System: The player spends one Willpower point to allow the vampire to feed on the energies of the dead. In this state, she is also able to perceive and feed on ghosts. If the vampire wishes to simply absorb ambient necrotic energy, she must be in a locate where a death has recently occurred or she must be in an area closely attuned to the energies of death, such as a cemetery or a gallows. A necromancer can generally absorb one to four points at a time, and once depleted, the same area cannot be tapped again for a week or until the Storyteller deems that the energies have been replenished.
If a vampire wishes to feed on directly on a ghost, he must attack the wraith as if feeding normally. The wraith is still able to attack the vampire while he is being fed upon, however, though he cannot move or flee without defeating the vampire in a resisted Willpower roll (difficulty 6 for both sides).
The energies harvested by the Feast may be used exactly like ordinary blood points with one exception: they cannot be used to rouse a vampire at the beginning of the night.
•••• Curse of the Maelstrom
The necromancer inhales deeply, then forcefully exhales. If she chooses to curse her immediate surroundings, a mundane observer will not see any evidence that anything has happened –not immediately, anyway– but even infants in the cradle will sense that something terrible is coming. There is always an eerie calm just before the Maelstrom is unleashed.
Alternatively, she can target a single victim with the Curse. The accursed’s soul is marked by the hand of Oblivion, and he contracts a terrible wasting illness.
System: The player spends at least one blood point and rolls Willpower (difficulty 8). If she succeeds, the vampire summons Spectres (terrible ghosts that worship Oblivion and seek the destruction of the world) to plague the surrounding area. The Spectres will cause mayhem and destruction an area centered on the necromancer with a radius of approximately one-half mile. This area can be increased by one-half mile for every blood point spent during activation of the power. The Spectres will typically ignore the necromancer, but they can be controlled by supernatural means (such as Compel Soul). See page XX for more details on ghosts.
If she chooses to target a single person rather than a location, she must either touch the target or direct a stream of entropic energy at him (Dexterity + Occult, difficulty 7; this can be dodged). If hit, the target suffers one level of aggravated damage. This manifests as a terrible supernatural illness that causes the victim’s veins to turn either black or sickly gray. In addition to his ghastly appearance, a victim is marked on a spiritual level as cursed by the hand of Oblivion, and all but the most hardened necromancers and ghosts will be unsettled by his presence. The difficulty of all social rolls he faces until the next sunrise are increased by 2.
••••• Night Cry
With use of Night Cry, a necromancer is able to display her mastery of the forces of entropy. She may either direct it away from her allies to aid them, or she may channel it directly into her foes and hinder them.
System: The necromancer screams in an unearthly wail that is heard in both the living world and the Underworld. The player selects targets, spending one Willpower and blood point for each target after the first. (Generational blood limits apply, and the player may not “pre-spend” blood to activate this power.) She may only select targets that are within one yard per dot of Necromancy that she possesses.
The player rolls Manipulation + Occult (difficulty 6). If she chooses to aid the targets, Night Cry gives them a -1 difficulty on all of their actions per success. If she chooses to harm the targets, she deals one aggravated wound to each target.
If the player botches, she summons a pack of Spectres as in Curse of the Maelstrom above, but the Spectres will specifically target the necromancer rather than ignore her.
Not all necromantic powers are taught as disciplines. Some require more than mere blood or force of will to activate. These rituals are not as intuitive as Disciplines, but must be taught from one necromancer to another. Some have been crafted by the Cappadocians through years of careful study and experimentation. Some are rumored to have been taught to the Kindred by powerful mages of the Underworld. Folk tales of vampires who made foul bargains with the kings and queens of the Underworld in exchange for necromantic power abound in the Dark Medieval. However if any tangible evidence of these dread contracts exists, it’s not widely known.
System: To perform a ritual correctly, a player must succeed at an Intelligence + Occult roll with a difficulty equal to 3 + the level of the ritual, maximum 9. Failure produces no effect, but a botch may produce disastrous results.
Level One Rituals
Call of the Hungry Dead
Call of the Hungry Dead is a ritual used to communicate across the Shroud or to gaslight a rival. The celebrant chants and scatters a handful of black beans. At the end of the ritual (which lasts about ten minutes), the necromancer lights a black candle and burns a single hair from the target in the flame. The target is then able to hear the voices of the dead.
However, such a crude ritual provides murky results. Unless the target is able to exceed the caster’s successes in a Perception + Occult roll (difficulty 9), the voices of the dead will come across as a cacophony of howls, lamentations, and curses. Whether successful or not, any target is subject to + 2 difficulty on all rolls related to audial perception, and may think he is going mad.
The Call of the Hungry Dead lasts as long as the black candle continues to burn.
The celebrant must burn a small green candle down to the bottom (which takes about ten minutes) and form the remaining ash and wax into a small sphere. The sphere is then placed somewhere on the intended target’s person.
Anyone who carries the sphere appears to be normal by any observer in the living world, but to anyone in the Underworld, the target appears to be illuminated with a sickly green glow. Ghosts find it trivially easy to affect the target with their dark magic, and receive a -1 difficulty on all magic-related rolls directed at the target.
There are two schools of thought on how to conduct the ritual of Final Sight. Adherents of the first school of thought conduct the ritual by dripping a few drops of blood on a dead man’s eye and saying a brief prayer for his soul. Others conduct the ritual by slowly and reverentially eating one of the dead man’s eyes. Most necromancers have a strong preference for one method. Regardless of which method the necromancer uses, this ritual must be used on a corpse with at least one intact eye, and it takes approximately five minutes.
The number of successes on the ritual roll determines the clarity of her results.
1 success A basic sense of the subject’s death
2 successes A clear image of the subject’s death and the seconds preceding it
3 successes A clear image, with sound, of several minutes preceding the subject’s
4 successes A clear image, with sound, of the half-hour before the subject’s death
5 successes Full sensory perception of the hour leading up to the subject’s death
If the player botches, her character is assaulted with vague and confusing visions of her own Final Death, which will immediately provoke a Rötschreck check (see p. XX).
This ritual creates a magical stone, which can be used to keep track of a necromancer’s friends or enemies, living or dead. To create a Shew-Stone, a necromancer must paint a person’s name in a bird’s blood (Germanic traditions insist on using the blood of a hoopoe) on a consecrated, polished stone. The necromancer must appease the spirits by performing a ritual such as a dance, a prayer, or an offering. Ghostly spirits will then appear in the Shew-Stone and whisper the target’s whereabouts in the necromancer’s ear.
The stone loses its powers on All Saints Day unless the necromancer spends a blood point to renew the magic.
Ritual of the Smoking Mirror
The Ritual of the Smoking Mirror allows a necromancer to harness the powers of Deathsight and Lifesight (see p. XX) for herself. The celebrant takes a broken shard of a mirror and holds it over a lit candle with both hands. She must hold the glass tightly enough to make her hands bleed enough to snuff the candle with the blood. She rubs the bloody and sooty mirror counterclockwise with her left hand, and then holds it aloft. If the ritual is successful, she is able to see with either Lifesight or Deathsight so long as she looks through the mirror.
Level Two Rituals
Hand of Glory
The Hand of Glory is a candle created with a special purpose. When the Hand is lit within fifty paces of any home, all mortal residents therein will fall into a deep slumber (or stay asleep and unable to be roused).
To create a Hand, a necromancer must mummify the left hand of a hanged felon in an earthen jar with saltpeter and peppercorns. After a fortnight, she coats the hand in wax made of tallow rendered from a condemned man’s fat. Each finger (including the thumb) can be lit once. The Hand of Glory remains in effect for as long as the candle is lit. Only blood or milk will extinguish the candle; all other means to douse the flames will fail.
If any residents of the home remain awake after the candle is lit, the Hand will curl one finger down for each unsleeping resident. If the player botches her roll, all fingers will remain erect, but the somnolent effects will not occur.
This ritual harrows a target with terrifying visions of his own demise. To conduct the ritual, a necromancer takes a small personal token from a target. This might be a sample of bodily fluid, a hair, or even a well-used possession. The celebrant must dig a grave at least six feet deep and no less than three feet wide. She may use supernatural means to aid her such as Potence or Protean, but she must do the work directly and not with any other aid. When she has finished burying the token, the ritual begins to take effect.
The target suffers intermittent, terrifying visions of his own death for a period of one week. Every time a target is subjected to a vision, he must roll his Courage (difficulty 7). If he fails, he can take no action other than cowering in terror until the vision passes.
By implanting an enchanted eye from the corpse of a restless soul in her own eye socket, the necromancer can permanently gain the Deathsight ability (see p. XX). The ritual is complex and takes an entire evening to perform. At midnight, the celebrant cuts out her own eye and the eye of the corpse. She then places the corpse’s eye in her own eye socket, and places her eye in the corpse. Vampiric healing takes place instantaneously, sealing the dead man’s eye into her eye socket. The eye itself does not heal, however. It remains unmoving and rotten in the necromancer’s face, causing her Appearance to decrease by 1 when the eye is visible. Even a freshly-harvested eye will cloud over and decay in a matter of hours. This increases the difficulty of Perception rolls involving mundane eyesight by 1. As the eye is no longer a proper window into the necromancer’s soul, however, the Witch Eye increases the difficulty of all Disciplines that require eye contact by 1.
The Witch Eye may also complicate a vampire’s life on a supernatural level. Any ghost whose body is being desecrated by the ritual knows immediately, and will likely be displeased by the necromancer’s actions. Even if the necromancer completes the ritual successfully, the ghost maintains a supernatural connection to the Witch Eye, causing all magical rolls he makes against the necromancer to be made at a -1 difficulty.
Prepare the Vessel
This ritual works well as a method of facilitating mediumship, a bargaining chip for ghosts who long to walk in the Skinlands, or as a rather unique form of psychological torture. Prepare the Vessel renders a subject (willing or unwilling) a fitting receptacle for spiritual possession. The target must have a hood (such as one used for hanged men) placed over his head for one hour. Until the next sunrise (regardless of whether the hood remains in place), any ghost or spirit attempting to possess the target gains two automatic successes when doing so. For more on ghostly possession, see p. XX.
The Fountain of Miracles
Necromancers always cast The Fountain of Miracles as a precursor to another ritual or use of Necromantic path magic. To enact the ritual, the celebrants must carve symbols into the flesh of a restrained victim and drink from these ritual wounds. The methods may vary from the celebrants uttering a blessing to God before slitting the victim’s throat and drinking the blood from a communal bowl to an agonizing skin-flaying where the celebrants lap ecstatically at the oozing wounds carved in the shape of blasphemous symbols.
Each celebrant makes her ritual roll as usual. If all rolls succeed, all parties who participated in the ritual may pool their successes on the Necromantic Path or Ritual that the Fountain is intended to assist. All celebrants involved in the ritual and the following magic must know both the Fountain of Miracles and whatever power or ritual they are attempting.
If any single player botches at any juncture — either the activation of the Fountain of Miracles or during the subsequent activation of the magic — every player involved suffers the effects of a botch.
The necromancer ceremonially “kills” a mortal, laying him out on a bier and placing either two coins over his eyes or an inscribed tablet on his chest. The mortal may then leave his body and travel into the Underworld. He is not completely separated from this body – ghosts and other entities using Lifesight or Aura Perception will see a silver cord trailing from his soul to his still-living body. He can perceive the Underworld and speak to ghosts, but he cannot affect the Underworld physically.
Level Three Rituals
Din of the Damned
This ritual seals any space against attempts at eavesdropping via either supernatural or mundane means. The necromancer draws an unbroken line of ashes on the ground. So long as the line remains unbroken, no one outside of the line can hear anything going on inside. The only thing that a would-be eavesdropper hears are faint echoes of the Underworld as described in Call of the Hungry Dead (p. XX). If a listener uses supernatural means such as Auspex, he may roll Perception + Occult (difficulty 7) against the successes scored by the celebrant. If he botches this roll, he is deafened for the rest of the night.
The realm of dreams is close to the world of the dead. With the use of Nightmare Drums, a vampire can make a dark bargain with denizens of the Underworld to harry her rivals in their dreams until they go mad.
To enact the ritual, a celebrant coats a personal possession of the target with his own blood. She then burns the possession, sending a Relic of it to the Underworld. While it is burning, the necromancer drums a steady beat on a drum made from the skin of no less than three humans. The drums are inaudible to the living, but to the dead, they are ear-piercingly loud and fill ghosts with agony. In exchange for silence, the ghosts torment the necromancer’s foe by sending him nightmares for as long as the vampire requests. More powerful ghosts may bargain (albeit under duress) for the necromancer to perform some favor for them in return for their services.
A botch results in the ghosts in the area becoming enraged by the Nightmare Drums. Instead of harrying the necromancer’s target, they will either attack the necromancer directly or haunt her dreams.
A necromancer can use the Tempest Shield as an emergency defense against hostile ghosts. To raise the Tempest Shield, a necromancer must spend one turn performing a ritual dance (Dexterity + Performance at difficulty 6, or difficulty 7 in combat). In the next turn, the celebrant bites through her lips (taking one level of bashing damage and spending one blood point) and spits on the ground in a circle. The player then makes her ritual roll. If she succeeds, no ghost can enter the circle, and the difficulty for all ghosts to target any creatures within the circle using their magics increases by 2 . The ritual lasts for fifteen minutes or until the circle is broken.
Level Four Rituals
Bastone del Diavolo
Even a powerful ghost fears and loathes a necromancer armed with a Bastone del Diavolo, or “Devil Stick.” Creation of a Bastone is a difficult task. The celebrant must sever the leg of a living mortal, remove the femur from the surrounding tissue, and submerge it in boiling lead. Once the lead has cooled, she inscribes the femur with a litany of curses. Once she has finished her craftsmanship, she must beat the mortal to death with his own femur.
To activate the powers of a Devil Stick, a wielder must spend one point of Willpower. For the next scene, any ghost struck with the Devil Stick loses a point from his Passion Pool (see p. XX). A ghost need not be manifested to be struck with the Stick; it affects incorporeal targets just as well as corporeal ones. The Devil Stick deals an additional die of aggravated damage to a ghost currently possessing a corporeal host.
Ghosts instinctively sense the presence of a Devil Stick, and they are loath to approach anyone who carries one. Any necromancer who attempts to summon or attract ghosts with a Devil Stick on her person does so at a +1 difficulty, even if she is not wielding it during the summoning.
Vision of St. Anthony
With this ritual, the necromancer can grant others Shroudsight (as described on p. XX) for a number of hours equal to her Stamina score. She enchants a handful of wheat infected with ergot (a common type of toxic fungus) with an hour-long ritual. For every success on her ritual roll, she creates three doses. The enchantment removes any toxicity from the ergot, but if she botches, she creates three doses of highly-toxic wheat that will inflict eight dice of lethal damage on anyone who ingests it, mortal and vampire alike.
Level Five Rituals
Chill of Oblivion
The subject of this powerful ritual calls upon the power of Oblivion, the great all-devouring Nothingness destined to consume the universe. By doing so, the subject gains considerable power over fire. To cast the ritual, a subject must lay naked upon the bare earth while a block of ice no smaller than the length of his forearm melts upon his chest. This inflicts three levels of bashing damage to mortals. The ritual takes twelve hours minus the number of successes gained on the ritual, and it stays in effect for a number of nights equal to the necromancer’s Occult rating.
A subject infused with the Chill of Oblivion does not burn easily. He takes lethal rather than aggravated damage from fire. He automatically succeeds at all Rötschreck rolls triggered by the presence of fire (but not for rolls triggered for another reason, such as by sunlight). He may also attempt to extinguish any fire within his line of sight merely by force of will. To do this, his player rolls Willpower (difficulty 9). Each success reduces a fire’s soak difficulty by 1 (see p. XX), and a fire with a soak difficulty of 2 is effectively extinguished.
A necromancer does not invoke the power of Oblivion lightly. Oblivion tarnishes the soul of anyone who calls upon it, causing black veins to appear in his aura in a fashion similar (but not identical) to a vampire who has committed the sin of amaranth. The vampire also radiates a palpable aura of stillness and cold, and should be treated as if he possessed the Flaws Touch of Frost (p. XX) and Eerie Presence (p. XX) for the duration of the ritual’s effects. Finally, the call of Oblivion attracts Spectres. With their desire to see the entire world cast into the Void, they may decide that the necromancer is a good place to start.
Dead Man’s Hand
By performing the rite of the Dead Man’s Hand, a necromancer can inflict a rival with a terrible wasting illness. The ritual requires a freshly-severed hand and a piece of white cloth that has come in contact with the bodily fluids of the target (e.g. blood, saliva). The necromancer places the folded cloth in the grasp of the severed hand. The necromancer makes a standard roll and spends two blood points for each point of Stamina and Fortitude the target possesses. If she succeeds, the target undergoes a gruesome transformation: as the Dead Man’s Hand decays, so does the target’s body. He becomes a maggot-infested, putrid corpse before his very eyes. The curse progresses as follows, with the target slowly losing health levels according to the table below:
Health Level Time Until Next Loss
Bruised 12 hours
Hurt 12 hours
Injured Six hours
Wounded Three hours
Mauled One hour
Crippled 30 minutes
Incapacitated 12 hours
After twelve hours, Incapacitated mortals die, and Incapacitated Kindred fall into torpor. The only way to stop the process is to remove the cloth from the Dead Man’s Hand or destroy the Dead Man’s Hand entirely.
Treasures of Hades
This complex and lengthy ritual allows a necromancer to retrieve Relics (see p. XX) from the Underworld. The ritual requires that the necromancer chant for six hours while burning a replica of the Relic (which needn’t be well-crafted or convincing). At the conclusion of the ritual, the Relic will appear in the ashes of the replica. In order to summon a Relic, the celebrant must have seen it before. This ritual cannot be used to non-Relic objects in the Underworld, such as the soul-cutting blades of the ghost kings.
It is unlikely that a useful Relic can be taken away without anyone noticing, however. Relics are precious, jealously guarded commodities in the Underworld, and ghosts have an uncanny way of tracking down meddling necromancers who plunder their treasuries.
Objects taken from the Underworld will remain in the living world until All Hallows’ Eve, at which point they return to the sunless lands. A necromancer can only summon a particular Relic once every one hundred years.
Orphic Sojourn allows a necromancer to project her soul from her body and effectively exist as a ghost for the duration of the ritual.
Orphic Sojourn requires that the vampire dress herself in funerary garb and surround herself with grave goods. She lies down and meditates from dusk until midnight. After midnight, she is freed from her body. She may wander the Underworld and interact with the objects and creatures as if she were a ghost for a number of hours equal to her successes on her ritual roll. When the ritual expires, she immediately returns to her body. Orphic Sojourn may not be used to retrieve objects from the Underworld.
Obtenebration, the power to control and manipulate shadows, is the Discipline from which the Clan of Shadows takes its name. Initiates of the Discipline can use it to move and manipulate shadows to their advantage, while masters can give shadows, form, substance, and a semblance of life.
Where exactly the source of this power comes from is a source of disagreement among Lasombra. The most ancient elders of the Clan claim that the darkness is itself a primal entity, equal and opposite to the force of creation that bears the world into being. Influenced by Zoroastrianism, the eldest usually call this dark force Ahriman. Other Lasombra believe that Obtenebration draws its power from a realm of shadow rather than an entity. Lasombra who look to one of the Abrahamic faiths might call it hell, while an adherent of the ancient Greek or Roman gods might call it tartarus.
In more recent nights, the rise of science and scientific thinking has caused many younger Lasombra to eschew the mysticism surrounding Obtenebration. These young Lasombra insist that Obtenebration is simply the manifestation of their Kindred nature peculiar to their Clan. They dismiss talk of shadow realms and dark gods as superstitious, insisting that the secrets to their power can be unlocked through scientific thought and careful study.
Whatever it’s origin, Obtenebration is wholly unnerving to those who see it in use. It evokes terror in mortals and animals who see the Discipline in use. Even Kindred, whose very existence defies explanation, tend to see Obtenebration as an affront against the laws of nature.
• Shadow Play
While this ability does not allow characters to create shadows that do not already exist, it allows the one to manipulate, move, and animate ambient shadows. This can be used to grant social effects, such as using shadows to make yourself more imposing, or shape an environment to suit your needs, creating areas of shadow in which to hide a person or object.
System: 1 blood point is spent to add 1 die to a character’s Intimidation and Stealth dice pools for the remainder of the scene. While this power is active, characters may also move, change, and animate shadows, which can include separating them from their original source. This can include moving shadows in such a way as to allow the character to see better, which reduces any penalty incurred by darkness by the amount of the character’s Obtenebration rating.
Mortals find this power terrifying to behold and must pass a Courage check of 7 or suffer a 1 die Social die pool penalty when they see this power in use.
By concentrating on summoning forth darkness, Lasombra with this ability can summon a writhing cloud of supernatural darkness to engulf an area and obscure all sources of light. The darkness is a manifestation of the Abyss and muffles sound and sight and smothers the life out of the weak. It must be actively maintained by the character summoning it; the cloud dissipates as soon as the character’s concentration is broken.
System: To use this ability, roll Manipulation + Occult with a difficulty of 7. Success results in a cloud of impenetrable blackness 10 feet in diameter anywhere within 50 yards of the character. Each additional success may double the diameter of the cloud, at the caster’s discretion. The caster may choose to affect an area not in his line of sight, but at a difficulty of 9, and they must spend 1 point of blood.
All Perception pools are reduced by 5 dice and the difficulties of all rolls from characters within the cloud are increased by 2. Characters with supernatural methods of enhancing Perception, such as Heightened Senses (Auspex 1) or the Merit Darksight take only a 2 die penalty to their Perception. Additionally, the cloud is a breach of the Abyss into the material world; let loose into the world of the living, it will attempt to drain the life from any beings caught in it. Characters inside the cloud have their Stamina pools reduced by an amount equal to the caster’s rating in Obtenebration. For mortals, if this takes them below 1 Stamina die, they suffocate.
••• Arms of Ahriman
With this ability, a Lasombra shapes the darkness into tentacles that can attack, retrain, and grapple foes.
System: Using this ability requires a roll of Manipulation + Occult, difficulty 7. Each success allows a character to create one tentacle six feet in length that must originate in a source of shadow within 20 feet of the caster, with Strength and Dexterity ratings equal to the caster’s Obtenebration rating. If the caster desires, they may spend blood to increase Strength and Dexterity at the cost of 1 blood per point increased; they may also increase the length by spending 1 blood per six feet of length per tentacle.
Each tentacle has four health levels, does not take wound penalties, and soaks non-Aggravated damage by rolling Stamina + Fortitude equal to the caster’s rating. (Aggravated damage may not be soaked.) Tentacles may attack characters by using Dexterity to attack for Strength + 1 points of bashing damage. Controlling the tentacles requires a moderate amount of concentration on the part of the caster; the tentacles receive one independent action; they act in concert as the caster directs. Each additional tentacle beyond the first adds +1 to damage rolls.
This ability allows Cainites to craft life-like images and illusions out of darkness that are nearly indistinguishable from reality.
System: The player rolls Wits + Occult, difficulty 7. For each success, the character may create one image that is up to human-sized, or they may pool their successes to create one very large illusion. Characters who see these illusions must pass a Perception + Alertness roll with difficulty 9 to see through the illusion.
Alternately, the caster may fill an area up to 10 yards per success with primordial visions of chaos, dark reflections of the Abyss and its denizens. This breach of the veil causes fear in all who behold it. Characters without Obtenebration have all dice pools reduced by 2 and their Initiative reduced by 3.
••••• Tenebrous Avatar
The Cainite calls uses her mastery of darkness to become darkness itself, a living reflection of the void of the Abyss. In shadow form, Lasombra are virtually indestructible and may pass through even the smallest of openings.
System: A character with this ability may spend 3 blood and spend 3 turns to metamorphose into a creature of shadowy horror. In this form, vampires may not deal or receive physical damage. They may summon Arms of Ahriman using themselves as an origin by spending the additional blood to activate this power. They may also choose to engulf a victim in shadow, reducing all of their victim’s dice pools by an amount equal to their Obtenebration rating. As with Nocturne, mortal characters suffocate if this reduces their Stamina to zero.
While in shadow form, characters take twice the aggravated damage from fire and sunlight and add 1 to the difficulty of checks against Rotschreck.
••••• • Walk the Abyss
By traversing the Abyss, this ability allows a character to enter a patch of darkness and emerge from a second patch of darkness within eyesight. Characters may also use this ability to extend their reach into a shadow and grasp something within reach of a second shadow.
System: Both entry and exit points must be large enough to actually contain a person, even if the character is only reaching through the shadows. The character rolls either Intelligence + Stealth, to pass from one shadow to the other, or Intelligence + Brawl, to grasp a distant object, with difficulty 7.
Traveling through the Abyss is not for the faint of heart. The character using this ability must pass a Courage check of 5 (difficulty 7 for vampires pulled through the Abyss not of their own volition). Failure results in immediate Rotschrek on emergence from the shadow, while a botch results in the character becoming lost between shadows and becoming trapped in the Abyss. They must then make another Intelligence + Stealth roll to open a gateway from the Abyss back into the material realm, with the destination of the new portal to be determined by the Storyteller.
Vampiric Potence is Caine’s fury running through undead muscles. A master of Potence can lift many times her weight, shatter stone with a punch, and leap across a churchyard the way a child might over a creek.
System: For each dot of Potence the vampire possesses, add one die to all Strength-based dice pools. With one reflexive blood point, those dice become automatic successes for the turn. In hand to hand combat, this means automatic successes on the damage roll.
As with Celerity and Fortitude, masters of Potence can choose between increasing their raw ability, and adding specific gifts at each level above five.
The vampire with this honing of Potence knows just how to apply her deadly strength to destroying inanimate objects.
System: Spend two blood points to activate Crush for the scene. With a successful attack against an object, your character automatically destroys it. In the case of weapons or armor on active combatants, this may mean a targeted attack (see p. XX). If you choose to destroy a victim’s weapons or armor, they take no damage from the attack.
With this level of power, the Cainite’s hands move through flesh the way a mortal’s moves through packed sand.
System: A character with Brutality causes lethal damage with her unarmed strikes. Her unarmed strikes may only be dodged, not blocked or parried, as her punches move weapons and shields aside effortlessly. This power does not require activation, and is considered “always on” unless the user wills it.
The eldest practitioners of Potence can infuse the power of their blood to delay the physical devastation of her attacks. Instead of destroying an opponent immediately, she stores her Potence in their body for later effect.
System: Make an attack normally. Spend three blood. Do not add Potence to the damage pool. If the attack causes one point of damage after soak, Aftershock takes effect. Instead of adding Potence as dice or automatic successes to the damage pool, Aftershock “stores” those automatic damage levels for later. Specify any time in the next 24 hours. At that time, cause lethal damage equal to your character’s Potence to the victim. A character may only have one instance of Aftershock “storing” damage at a time.
Serpentis is the unmistakable, terrifying legacy of Set. The Discipline stands as a secret the Followers of Set hold close to their chest; outsiders rarely see enough of its effects to understand them reliably. The Followers cultivate this image of mystery, letting the timid and the envious imagine what they might be capable of. Serpentis’s name is slightly misleading, as it doesn’t just offer affinity for serpents; it allows the Setite to adopt traits of the legendary Typhon and Echidna. Various stories exist among the Followers to explain why they take on the imagery of Greek monsters instead of Set himself, but the prevailing stance is that the Discipline works, and they pass around historical accountings tying Set to the Typhonic Beast due to shared mythological imagery. Serpentis transformations last for the scene unless otherwise noted, or unless ended prematurely. Additionally, Serpentis powers can be used together.
• Enchanting Gaze
This power makes the vampire the proverbial flame to a moth. She takes on an alluring, enchanting feature such as a serpent’s gold eyes or a pearlescent sheen to her skin. She can paralyze with a glance, and mortals in her vicinity find themselves drawn to her. These features are always subtly supernatural; if a person pays close attention, it betrays the Setite’s inhuman nature, but casual observation gives nothing away.
System: No roll is required. While active, the Setite enjoys a -1 difficulty to all Social actions due to her alluring feature. Her paralyzing gaze can only affect a single character, who must be paying attention to the vampire. The gaze will affect supernatural characters as well as mortals, but supernatural characters may spend a point of Willpower and roll Willpower (difficulty the vampire’s Charisma + Subterfuge) in order to break the gaze. An affected character breaks the gaze if clearly endangered.
•• Typhonic Maw
The vampire’s jaw becomes a ferocious, malleable thing she can control in a variety of ways. Her jaw distends to her chest, her fangs grow to the size of small daggers, her tongue lashes out a meter long and forked, and her throat expands to consume. She can choose to adopt some or all of these adaptations when activating Typhonic Maw.
System: Spend a blood point to reflexively activate Typhonic Maw. The tongue’s lashes cause aggravated wounds (difficulty 7 to attack, Strength damage) and can be used as an additional attack for the purposes of multiple actions (see p. XX). Additionally, if she wounds her enemy, the proboscis of her tongue allows her to feed from her victim as if she’d bitten him. This causes the Kiss like a bite. She also suffers no penalties from the darkness while her tongue is extended. Her jaw allows her to make bite attacks without a grapple. Successful bites cause one additional die of damage, and initiate a grapple automatically. When she’s bitten an opponent, her enlarged throat can consume five points of blood per turn instead of three.
••• Serpent’s Flesh
With this power, the Setite’s flesh becomes leathery, scaly, slimy, and otherwise monstrous. Her body becomes flexible and malleable, and she becomes harder to hurt.
System: Spend a blood point to change reflexively. Serpent’s Flesh reduces soak difficulties to 5. She can use her Stamina to soak any aggravated damage not caused by fire or sunlight. She may slip through any opening wide enough to fit her head. Lastly, she can reflexively escape any grapple.
This change can be subtle, if the vampire spends a Willpower during activation. If subtle, casual scrutiny will not reveal her supernatural nature if she’s wearing at least modest clothing. If she chooses to bear the weight of her supernatural nature, reduce Intimidation difficulties by 2.
•••• Typhonic Avatar
Now, the Setite can become a Typhonic Beast, a creature of legend. It stands as a tall jackal with a hard, forked and spiked tail, with severe, pointed ears and a long snout. Typhonic Beasts are red, black, or a combination thereof. Alternatively, she can take a hybrid human/serpent form with a long, prehensile tail for legs. Setites use this as a sort of ‘war form’ in addition to religious functions.
System: Spend a blood point. The transformation takes three turns, but additional blood points can be spent to reduce the time by a turn. Four blood points makes the transformation reflexive.
Either form gains two dots to Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina. The animal form moves at twice the vampire’s speed, does 2 additional dice of bite damage, and receives -2 to difficulties to resist losing balance. The hybrid form’s tail can act as an additional attack as part of a multiple action, and the tail gains five dots to Strength instead of two.
Obviously, both forms are unquestioningly supernatural. The vampire inspires terror and awe in mortals. Mortals with fewer Willpower dots than the vampire’s Serpentis score must flee or subjugate themselves. They can act for a single turn by spending a point of Willpower. Mortals with more Willpower can roll Willpower (difficulty the vampire’s Serpentis) to avoid awe and fear.
When learning Typhonic Avatar, choose either the animal form or the hybrid form. You can purchase the other form later at half the normal experience cost.
••••• Mother of Monsters
Echidna was called the Mother of Monsters. This power allows the Setite to birth small typhonic beasts from her flesh. The monsters grow from her skin, starting by opening eyes and mouths from her flesh, then ripping from her body, taking part of her with them. These monsters have childlike intelligence, and understand the vampire’s speech. They follow her commands without exception, and cannot be commanded or frightened away from their duty. Some Setites can create other mythological monsters. Rumors persist of some Setites who can create rudimentary humans from their flesh.
System: Spend one or more blood points and mark a health level off your character’s sheet. That health level cannot recover so long as the beast remains apart from the vampire. The first blood point creates the monster, additional blood points act as a blood pool the beast can use to heal damage (the way a vampire can) or to activate the vampire’s level 1-4 Serpentis powers for himself.
Each monster takes one turn to birth. The vampire may only spend as much blood as she can in a single turn to fuel the monster’s blood pool.
The vampire can reflexively subsume a monster back into her flesh, replenishing its remaining blood pool, and recovering the lost health level. She may also subsume a beast’s corpse to recover the lost health.
The Setite can choose a different mythological form for the beast. However, these monsters must be obviously unnatural.
Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 3, Stamina 3, Intelligence 1, Wits 3, Perception 4, Charisma 1, Manipulation 1, Appearance 1
Abilities: Athletics 3, Brawl 3, Intimidation 3
Health Levels: OK, OK, -3, -5, Incapacitated
Disciplines: The beast shares the vampire’s Celerity, Fortitude, and Potence powers
Soak: +3 dice of armor
Attacks: Bite (Strength +1 lethal), Claws (Strength lethal)
••••• • Echidna’s Venom
At this level, the vampire’s bite become venomous as a death adder.
System: Spend a point of blood. The vampire’s fangs hollow, and generate venom. Any character the vampire bites suffers from the venom. Affected victims suffer the Setite’s Serpentis in lethal damage in addition to whatever damage the bite may have caused. Humans that survive the damage become paralyzed (-5 to all actions) and must succeed in a Stamina roll every thirty seconds for five minutes or die.
••••• •• Form of the Storm
Set was known as a god of storms. With this power, the vampire becomes the storm temporarily, diffusing her body into a furious cloud of wind, rain, and lightning, battering everything around her relentlessly.
System: The transformation takes one full turn. Spend two blood points per turn remaining in Form of the Storm. The vampire becomes a storm. This unholy storm takes up three meters per dot of the vampire’s Serpentis, and she can move at half her normal speed. She becomes immune to physical damage in this form. Increase all Perception difficulties by 3. Roll her Serpentis as bashing damage each turn against every character within the storm. By spending one blood point, she can summon forth a bolt of lightning to strike an enemy. The attack requires a Perception + Occult roll, and causes aggravated damage equal to the vampire’s Serpentis. It cannot be blocked, or parried, only dodged and soaked.
By spending a point of Willpower upon activation, the vampire can stay material at the center of the storm. She becomes immune to the storm’s effects, but can still take physical actions.
••••• ••• Cerberus’s Fury
Echidna and Typhon’s son, Cerberus, guards the gates to the underworld with his three dog heads. With this power, the Setite grows two additional heads which can be used to assault victims.
System: Spend two blood points. The Setite grows two additional heads from her chest, shoulder, or back. These two heads each receive an additional full action per turn. These are limited to actions a head can take, such as a bite or Dominate power. If she activates Typhon’s Maw, these additional heads benefit from it.
As an additional effect, the vampire adopts Cerberus’s affinity for the underworld. She can see ghosts, and her additional heads can affect them as if they were material.
••••• •••• Godhead
This fearsome ability gives the Setite the mantle of a god. While most Setites manifest this power by adopting the head of a beast similar to the Egyptian gods, every Setite manifests Godhead differently. Some grow a meter in height. Some adopt a glistening gold flesh. Regardless the manifestation, it’s always obvious, and always awe-inspiring.
System: Spend three blood points and one turn. When purchasing Godhead, determine its specific effects. You may purchase other Godhead forms as additional nine dot powers. Divide the character’s Serpentis dots among her Attributes, with no more than half going to a single Attribute. These can raise a vampire above her normal generational limits. Godhead also allows for an additional game effect, but this must be decided with the Storyteller upon choosing the power. For examples, a Setite with ruby flesh may not suffer damage from physical attacks, or a vampire that glistens like the sun might cause Rotschreck and three aggravated damage per turn to vampires in her vicinity.
When the mortal magic of the Tremere failed after their transformation, they knew that they would be helpless without a substitute. Out of the centuries of lore that their libraries held and through daring experimentation in their laboratories, they cobbled together the first blood-powered paths of the Discipline for which they are now most famed: Thaumaturgy. Unlike the arts of the magi, whose applications are limited only by will and imagination, the Tremere’s substitute art is precisely delimited. Each path produces a predictable effect if the thaumaturge has the strength of will; each ritual can be repeated with scientific accuracy so long as it is carried out without error.
Of the two forms of Thaumaturgy—paths and rituals—the rituals are the safer. An error in performing them simply means a waste of time and perhaps ingredients. The paths, being substantially more roughly constructed than rituals, have the potential to backfire spectacularly if a user cannot master the necessary force of will.
While other, older forms of blood magic exist, Thaumaturgy is strictly the domain of Clan Tremere. The leaders of the Clan know that the discipline has the potential to raise them to the highest eschelons of Cainite society, and they severely punish any Tremere who risks that future by sharing their secrets with outsiders.
System: Unless specified otherwise, Thaumaturgic powers all follow the same system. For path powers, spend a blood point and roll Willpower against a difficulty of (power’s level+3). For rituals, roll Intelligence + Occult against a difficulty of (ritual level+3, maximum 9).
Sidebar: A Hermetic Theory of Vitae
The Tremere have made the study of vitae their foremost concern. Their present theory is that it represents the prima materia, the pure matter out of which all other things are generated. Without any form (in the Aristotelian sense) of its own, it can be shaped into whatever its possessor wills it to be, but it is vulnerable to those elements of nature that embody clarity and perception: the Sun and fire. Both of these, because they aid the mind and senses in recognizing the forms of things, react against the formlessness of vitae and force it back to an inert state.
The Lesser Paths
The so-called lesser paths are most often the ones first taught to initiates in the Thaumaturgic arts. Increasing mastery of these paths does not teach the Thaumaturge new applications of power, but merely increase the force or scope of a single ability.
Creatio Ignis (The Creation of Fire)
With this power, the Thaumaturge conjures an eerie flame in his palm that sheds light but offers no warmth and does not provoke Frenzy in other vampires. When he releases it at a target within sight, however, it burns like any ordinary fire and is beyond his control.
System: One success is enough to conjure a flame for illumination and to release it at any target within ten yards. Every additional success gives the flame a further ten yards of range, up to the limit of the Thaumaturge’s line of sight. To hurl the fire at a target in combat, roll Perception + Alertness to hit and apply damage according to the power’s level. For complete rules on fire, see page XX; for rules on Rötshreck, see page XX. Thaumaturgic fire causes aggravated damage.
Botches: A botch when using Creatio Ignis means that the conjured flame is not under the Thaumaturge’s control. It immediately spills from the hand to a flammable object within ten feet or, if no such object is present, causes the caster one level of aggravated damage before extinguishing itself.
• Candle (difficulty 3 to soak, one health level of aggravated damage/turn)
•• Palm of flame (difficulty 4 to soak, one health level of aggravated damage/turn)
••• Campfire (difficulty 5 to soak, two health levels of aggravated damage/turn)
•••• Bonfire (difficulty 7 to soak, two health levels of aggravated damage/turn)
••••• Inferno (difficulty 9 to soak, three health levels of aggravated damage/turn)
Iter Pernix (The Swift Journey)
This power subtly strengthens the vigor of mortals, vampires, or animals so that they can cross great distances more quickly than they ordinarily could. It does not speed up their movement in the same way that Celerity does: instead, it instills in them a determination to press ahead and a relief from the fatigue of a constant march.
System: Choose a number of targets and roll for successes. Each success allows the targets to move along roads at a speed of thirty miles per hour for one hour without need of rest or any negative after-effects. It has no effect on movement speeds in combat, only for long-distance travel.
Botches: Instead of speeding up travel, a botch when invoking Iter Pernix causes mounts to become difficult to handle, slowing movement to half speed for the next hour if they are connected to wagons or possibly to wander off-course if they are not.
• One being (a mount or walking human)
•• Up to six mounts or one laden wagon
••• Up to twelve mounts or four supply wagons
•••• Up to 24 mounts or eight supply wagons or one siege engine
••••• Up to 48 mounts or sixteen supply wagons or four siege engines
Potestas Motus (Power of Motion)
With concentration and simple gestures, the Thaumaturge who studies this path can lift and manipulate objects at a distance for a brief time. The amount of control is the same as if they were held, and those objects suitable for use as weapons may be employed as such so long as they remain within the vampire’s line of sight. Masters of the path can use it to carry themselves or others through the air, or even to hurl objects more violently than they could through physical strength alone.
System: Each success allows the character to manipulate the object for one turn. At the end of that time, she may make another Willpower roll at the same difficulty to extend the duration without spending any more blood points. If the initial roll achieved five successes, however, the power can be maintained for the entire scene without need for further checks.
At two dots, the Thaumaturge can manipulate weapons well enough to use them to attack: use the initial successes achieved when activating the power as the number of attack successes for the first turn, then roll Melee + Thaumaturgy for subsequent attacks. The effective Strength of the attack is equal to the caster’s Potestas Motus rating.
At three dots, the Thaumaturge can levitate himself or another and fly at running speed. If the target is unwilling, the caster and subject make opposed Willpower rolls each turn.
Botches: A botched roll with Potestas Motus turns the power against the caster, rooting her feet in place for the next turn. Until the end of that turn, the character cannot dodge.
• One pound
•• 20 pounds
••• 200 pounds
•••• 500 pounds
••••• 1000 pounds
Potestas Tempestatum (Power Over Storms)
The power to influence weather is one of the oldest of magical techniques, common among both Tremere Thaumaturges and the koldun of the Tzimisce Clan. The Tremere version is less precise than that of the Tzimisce, but can still produce dramatic effects when used properly.
System: The number of successes determines how quickly the desired phenomenon can be conjured from otherwise neutral conditions, with one success being a gradual shift over the next day and five successes being an instantaneous change. Minor changes or changes that build upon existing conditions (such as directing lightning while a thunderstorm is already in progress) allow the roll to be made at
1 or -2 difficulty at the Storyteller’s discretion, while wholly unnatural changes (a downpour in a parched desert) should be at 1 difficulty to appropriate Perception checks, weapon ranges halved), minor temperature changes or humour-based illnesses affecting the mortal source.
•• Rain or snow (2 difficulty to ranged attacks, weapon ranges halved, make a Dexterity check [difficulty 6] each turn to remain standing), moderate temperature changes
•••• Storm (combines effects of rain and high winds)
••••• Thunderstorm (roll Perception+Occult to strike a target with lightning for 10 dice of lethal damage)
The Greater Paths
Unlike the Lesser Paths, the Greater Paths are not mastered simply by concentrating more force of will onto a single purpose. Instead, they are collections of related powers that build upon each other through common techniques. Many Tremere teachers require that their apprentices study at least one of the Lesser Paths before being permitted to approach the Greater mysteries.
Potestas Elementorum (The Power of the Elements)
Although the Tremere’s transformation caused them to lose much of their mastery over spirits, thaumaturges who study the path of the elements can still call upon the lesser entities that inhabit natural phenomena. It is a popular form of magic among those stationed in more isolated chantries, ones where the exploration of nature is readily done, but its secrets are just as useful to urban Tremere.
• Strength of the Earth
By drawing on the power of the earth beneath her feet, the thaumaturge can temporarily increase her physical might with only a fraction of the cost in blood that another would require.
System: Assign three temporary points between Strength and Stamina for a number of turns equal to the successes rolled. The duration may be extended at a cost of one point of Willpower each turn, but the power cannot be “stacked” by using it again while one invocation is still in effect. It ends instantly if the thaumaturge is completely separated from the ground.
•• Wooden Tongues
By coaxing the minor elemental spirit of an inanimate object into awakening, the thaumaturge may converse with it briefly to discover what it has experienced of its surroundings.
System: The number of successes determines the extent and relevance of the information that the thaumaturge gains: one success is enough to learn of major events nearby, three successes can focus the spirit’s attention on the presence or absence of creatures during those events, and five successes is enough for it to describe creatures in comprehensible terms.
••• Animate the Unmoving
The thaumaturge learns to awaken elemental spirits further, and can now imbue them with limited powers of movement. Objects animated in this way cannot bend or warp in any radical way, but can shift and twist themselves by degrees in order to move. A door could open or shut, a chair could pull itself across the floor, a statue could walk slowly, or a sword could shudder to cause itself to be dropped.
System: The thaumaturge must expend a point of Willpower to use this ability in addition to the standard blood point and Willpower roll. Success allows him to animate one object for up to an hour, so long as it remains within his line of sight. Multiple uses of the power allow for the animation of more than one object, but a thaumaturge cannot control more objects at a time than he has points in Intelligence.
•••• Elemental Form
The thaumaturge is able to transform herself into an inanimate body of earth (metal, dirt, or stone), air, or water (liquid, ice, or fog) roughly equal in size to her own volume. She cannot take the shape of any crafted object.
System: One success turns the thaumaturge into the appropriate substance, but keeps her shape the same if the form is a solid one. Two successes allow her to mimic any natural formation of the element, such as a small boulder, pool of water, or chunk of unworked iron. Three or more successes allow her to use her disciplines while transformed, so long as they do not require eye contact or movement. The power lasts until sunrise, but the thaumaturge may dismiss it at any time.
In elemental form, she cannot move of her own accord and is largely impervious to harm, but take one (unsoakable) level of bashing damage each turn that the form is disrupted in any significant way. Regardless of the amount of disruption, however, the body will remain coherent. (You cannot put part of a watery thaumaturge in a bucket and carry it away from the rest. The water will seep back to join with the main body.)
••••• Summon Elemental
A master of Potestas Elementorum can summon one of the four classical elementals: a sylph (air), gnome (earth), salamander (fire), or undine (water). Although potentially a powerful ally, elementals are notoriously difficult to control. Stories of them turning on their summoners are well known among the Tremere who teach this art.
System: The thaumaturge must be near some source of the element from which the entity is to be summoned in order to manifest it. The process of calling the elemental is separate from that of binding it into service, making it a risky enterprise unless the caster is confident in her knowledge of the arcane arts.
An elemental has a base score of three in all Physical and Mental attributes. For every success on the initial Willpower roll to summon it, the caster may add one dot to one of those attributes. The elemental may also possess other powers at the Storyteller’s discretion.
Once she has summoned the elemental, the thaumaturge must roll Manipulation + Occult (difficulty 4 + the number of successes on the summoning roll) to command it. The possible outcomes are as follows:
Botch The elemental immediately attacks the thaumaturge.
Failure The elemental either leaves or attacks those nearby, at the
1 success The elemental does not attack the thaumaturge.
2 successes The elemental performs one service in exchange for
3 successes The elemental performs one service that is reasonable for its
4 successes The elemental performs one task that does not endanger it.
5 successes The elemental performs any task it is commanded to, even if it
takes several nights or puts it at risk.
Potestas Exsecrabilis (The Accursed Power)
When the Tremere were mortal wizards, they treated the common witchcraft of curses and maledictions as a technique unworthy of their scholarly attention. Now, however, they have recognized that they need every instrument at their disposal, so they have quickly adapted it for their needs.
The Accursed Power has requirements that other paths do not. First, the thaumaturge must not only be in the presence of the victim of the curse, but must declare it clearly. It need not be in a language that the victim understands, but it must still be forcefully spoken. Second, the thaumaturge requires some part of the victim’s being: hair, blood, a nail clipping, or something similar. Finally, the victim can throw off the effect of the curse by making a Willpower roll (difficulty 7 unless otherwise stated), representing her ability to hold fast against the psychological impact of the power.
In a time when the Tremere struggle for political status, the power to weaken their opponents’ ability to influence social situations can be as important as any display of raw force. This curse lays an aura of wrongness on the victim, causing those around him to shy away instinctively, regard him with suspicion, or simply find his presence intolerable.
System: The thaumaturge spends a blood point and rolls Willpower as usual. If successful, the target suffers a +2 penalty to all Social actions (rolls involving Charisma, Manipulation, or Appearance), to a maximum increased difficulty of 10. The effect lasts until the next sunset or until the caster decides to lift the curse.
Although Cainites are spared most of the diseases that permeate the Dark Medieval World, this curse allows the caster to simulate their effects. The result can be both physical crippling and psychologically damaging, as the vampire victim is suddenly and powerfully reminded of the mortality she left behind.
System: For every success that the thaumaturge rolls, the target’s Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina pools are reduced by 1 (to a maximum of a 3-dice penalty with three sucesses) for a number of nights equal to the caster’s Willpower. Each night, the victim can make a Willpower roll (difficulty 7) to shake off the effect; each success reduces the penalty to Physical Attributes by one die until the next night, and if she removes all penalties in a single night, the curse is broken.
A refinement of the Stigma curse, Scapegoat causes those who see or otherwise interact with the target to perceive him as a bitter rival or hated enemy. Each person’s perceptions are affected differently, so that the victim becomes whatever it is that person despises the most. Unlike Mask of a Thousand Faces, the illusion laid by the curse cannot be pierced with Auspex: its method is too new, too unusual, for the common traces to be discernable.
System: For every success that the thaumaturge rolls, the curse lasts for one night. During that time, the victim appears to everyone he encounters as some form of enemy. Although this does not necessarily result in immediate violence, it does tend to prevent the target from interacting in any normal way with those around him.
•••• Corrupt Body
With a malediction against some feature of the target, the thaumaturge invokes this power to cause a painful and specifically directed transformation. It can cause muscles to atrophy, limbs to shiver, faces to warp, or the entire body’s frame to grow frail and emaciated. What makes it most fearsome in the eyes of other Cainites who have witnessed its effects is that it can last far longer than other Tremere curses. A few nights suffering under a Malady is nothing compared to the weeks or months that Corrupt Body can cause.
System: Once the thaumaturge lays the curse and rolls for successes, the target can try to resist by rolling Willpower (difficulty 7), with each success reducing the effective strength of the curse by one. After that, however, there is no chance to undo it unless the caster lifts it voluntarily or the duration has elapsed.
The curse only requires one turn to cast, but the transformation takes three turns to complete. For those three turns, the pain of the change causes the target to take a 3-dice penalty to all actions. Afterward, for the duration of the curse, the victim suffers a 1-die penalty to all actions (cumulative with wound penalties) and has one attribute of the caster’s choice—Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, or Appearance— reduced to 1. The duration depends on the number of successes rolled:
1 success One night
2 successes One week
3 successes One month
4 successes One season
5 successes One year
This powerful curse not only lays a shroud of misfortune on the victim, but also instills such a strong sense of self-loathing and defeat that she may withdraw entirely from the world until its effects have passed. Every thought and action becomes a trial, burdened with doubt and the crushing bleakness of the belief that she will fail.
System: The effects of this curse require a Willpower roll (difficulty 8) to resist. If the target botches the roll and the caster achieved at least three successes in casting it, the curse is permanent. Otherwise, the duration is the same as Corrupt Body.
While under the influence of Acedia, the victim cannot succeed at any task automatically, and is treated as having rolled one botch in every action. (In other words, negate one success in every roll, with no successes meaning a botched result.) Even if she succeeds, the maximum effective result she can achieve is two successes, including additional success from Willpower or other sources.
Potestas Vitae (The Power of Lifeblood)
Understanding and controlling the mysteries of Vitae was the first task of the Tremere after they joined the ranks of the Damned, and their mastery of this form of thaumaturgy contributes heavily to their current reputation. While not every thaumaturge studies this path, many other Cainites assume that they do and treat them with appropriate caution.
It will only be much later that the Tremere overcome one of the greatest drawbacks of the Potestas Vitae: the fact that some of its techniques cause the thaumaturge to move closer to being bound by the very blood that he consumes. Any Cainite who successfully discovers a way to solve this problem can expect to be richly rewarded.
• A Taste for Blood
By tasting a single drop of blood, the thaumaturge can divine its origin: if it is vitae, then the relative power (generation) of its source, its freshness (how long it has been since the vampire fed), and concentration (how much blood the vampire holds). If the blood is mortal, he can identify whether or not it is mixed with vitae, thereby recognizing ghouls, as well as any blood
System: The thaumaturge consumes only a single drop of blood, spends a blood point, and rolls as usual. Because of the degree of focus that the power requires, however, even that one drop is enough to move him one step closer to a blood bond with the source, so Tremere are reluctant to use it except on mortals or when absolutely necessary. A single success can determine whether or not vitae comes from a vampire of much higher or lower generation than the thaumaturge, with more successes giving more precise inforrmation. It takes at least three successes to estimate the concentration of the blood (that is, the size of the source’s blood pool), and five successes gives detailed information on all aspects of the vitae. When used on mortal blood, one success is enough to recognize extremely ill sources or the admixture of Cainite vitae. In the latter case, more successes let the thaumaturge know whether or not the vitae is from a source he has tasted before.
•• Blood Awakening
Although intended as a way for Tremere to assist incapacitated brethren in healing their own wounds or summoning the strength of their blood, this power’s side effect—rousing the recipient’s Beast to hunger—has already led to some nicknaming it “Blood Rage.” By touching the intended target, the thaumaturge can control their ability to use vitae for healing or raising their physical attributes, although she cannot trigger the use of Disciplines that require an expenditure of blood points. The control lasts only as long as she maintains physical contact with the target.
System: The thaumaturge spends a blood point and rolls for success as usual after touching the target. Each success forces the target to spend one blood point, either for healing non-aggravated wounds or raising a Physical Attribute, in a manner chosen by the thaumaturge. While under the effect of Blood Awakening, the difficulty for the target to resist frenzy is also increased by the number of successes, possibly triggering a frenzy even in situations that would not otherwise do so.
••• Inner Vessel
Through a form of internal alchemy, a thaumaturge can use this power to temporarily concentrate his vitae to act as that of a vampire of an older generation. Although it is not a total transformation of the blood, it does allow the user to channel some of his gifts more effectively.
System: After expending a blood point and rolling for success, the vampire can divide successes between effectively lowering his generation by one per success or giving the effect a duration of one hour per success. If no successes are put towards duration, the effect only lasts for one turn. The temporary alteration only affects the vampire’s ability to use Dominate, the number of blood points he can spend in one turn, and the number of blood points his body can hold. It affects neither the generation of any childer created while under its effect or the result of any diablerie during the duration; both of those acts take effect as normal.
•••• Theft of Vitae
This power allows the thaumaturge to force blood from a target up to fifty feet away and draw it into herself as if she had consumed it directly. The blood bursts from the target’s mouth and pores, arcs across the intervening space, and is immediately absorbed by the caster. Mortals can be severely injured by the theft; vampires can be deprived of their vitae.
System: After spending a blood point and rolling as usual, the thaumaturge drains one blood point from the target for every success and adds them to her own pool. Blood points in excess of what the caster could usually hold are wasted in a splash of blood around her feet. Mortals who are the targets of the power take one level of lethal damage per success. Cainites take no damage, but still lose the appropriate number of blood points. Consuming the stolen blood causes the thaumaturge to move closer to a blood bond with the target, just as if she drank it directly from the source.
••••• Cauldron of Blood
Lacking the subtlety of the Assamites’ power to poison blood, the Cauldron of Blood is no less effective in its results: with a touch, the thaumaturge causes a target’s blood, whether mortal or vitae, to burn from inside, causing serious injury.
System: The thaumaturge must touch the target in addition to the other usual requirements of the power. In combat, or with an unwilling target, this could require a Dexterity + Brawl roll. A single success is enough to kill a mortal. Against a vampire, each success causes one level of aggravated damage and destroys one blood point.
The proprietary Discipline of the Salubri is divided into two aptly-named Paths: Healer and Warrior. Salubri use the healing powers and martial prowess of Valeren as bargaining chips, intimidating less moral Cainites into walking the Roads with greater conviction. The respective Salubri castes favor their proprietary Path as an in-Clan Discipline. They may raise other Paths as Clan Disciplines, but the opposing Path has an experience cost of (current rating x6).
Learning Valeren causes a physical change in Cainites: a bump or nodule developing in the center of the forehead, eventually cracking open into a fully-developed third eye when the character learns the third dot of Valeren. Cainites with high Road ratings rating manifest a human-looking or angelic-seeming eye; those walking a low or inhuman Road develop freakish or demonic third eyes. The eye is sensitive; attempting to cover it results in a penalty of one-die to all rolls, though obscuring it under a hood is fine. In all cases, the eye may be retracted into the skull and perfectly hidden for the scene with a Stamina + Stealth roll (difficulty 5), but using any level of Valeren brings it forth once more.
• Sense Vitality
With a glance, the Salubri can instantaneously read a target’s physical or spiritual vital markers. She may learn how much damage a target has incurred, or what manner of being he is.
System: The third eye squints, revealing the small details of life to the Salubri’s second sight. The player makes a Perception + Empathy or Medicine roll (difficulty 7), with successes cumulative. Two successes reveal how many health levels of damage the subject has suffered. Three successes tell how much blood a living target has left in her system. Four successes reveal the subject’s Road or Path rating (if applicable), though not which Road the subject walks. Alternately, successes allow the player to ask the Storyteller one question about the subject’s general health. “Was he drugged?” or “Was this done with Vicissitude?” are valid, but “Who did this to him?” or “Was it Rustovitch?” are not.
•• Gift of Sleep
The Unicorn can ease a target’s pain or place him into a deep, soothing sleep. The Healers have staunch ethical concerns about forcing unconsciousness on the unwilling, but these are concerns, not limits.
System: If used on the willing, the power requires a touch and a Willpower roll (difficulty 6) to block the subject’s pain. This allows the subject to ignore all wound penalties for one turn per success, and the Salubri may use this power on himself. To put a living being to sleep (willing or unwilling) the vampire must make a contested Willpower roll against the subject (difficulty 8). This target sleeps for eight hours (or whatever is normal for the individual) and regains one temporary Willpower point upon awakening. Being put to sleep in the midst of combat is entirely possible; while dropping to the ground does not awaken the subject, being struck with a weapon will snap the victim back to full wakefulness. Vampires and other undead creatures, or those who are sleepless for whatever reason, are not affected by this power.
••• Healer’s Touch
The signature power of the Healers stems from the ability to apply the vampiric regenerative process to others. The third eye opens wide, shedding slick sanguine light. The target feels sweet, invigorating energies rushing into their wounds.
System: This power works on any living or undead creature, but the character must be able to touch the target, even if they merely “lay on hands”. The target’s wounds may be healed by the expenditure of blood points, as if the vampire were healing themselves. Aggravated wounds may be also healed in this manner, requiring three blood points for each aggravated health level. Any bloodborne infectious diseases may also be cleansed by the Healer’s Touch, requiring two blood points per infection; they must first be identified, and this power does not prevent a recurrence, but it will alleviate the worst of the malady.
•••• Shepherd’s Watch
The third eye opens and flares a bright white, illuminating a barely-visible ward around the Unicorn and their charge. No foe may breach this sacred shield. The Salubri himself must stand among those he defends as he generates this barrier; he cannot guard them from afar.
System: The Salubri spends two Willpower points. Erecting the force barrier is a standard action, but maintaining it per turn or dropping it is reflexive. The invisible barrier extends in a 10-foot radius from the character. Those within it at its creation may leave and return, and the barrier moves with the Salubri.
Those who wish to cross the barrier from the outside must contest the character in an extended, contested Willpower roll (difficulty 8). The opponent may cross the barrier as soon as he accumulates three net successes against the Salubri; if the Salubri accumulates three net successes, the opponent is permanently barred from the threshold. Rocks, thrown weapons or crossbow bolts may penetrate the barrier without penalty, but everyone within the barrier is considered to have two additional dice of soak against such attacks.
••••• Unburden the Bestial Soul
The third eye opens, and a shaft of golden radiance lances out, transfixing the victim. Something gentle and barely perceptible wafts out of the subject’s mouth, drawn into the Salubri’s body. It is the victim’s soul. Salubri with this level of Valeren may draw the tattered soul from the vampire into the Salubri’s third eye, allowing the Healer to repair damage done by the burden of unlife and the Beast.
System: Vampiric souls with a Road rating of 1 or 0 cannot be healed by this power; they’re best left to the Warrior Caste. For all others, the character spends two Willpower, and rolls Stamina + Empathy (difficulty of 10 minus the subject’s Road rating). Failure means the character cannot try again until the following night, while a botch means the Unicorn acquires a derangement. Success takes the target’s soul. Souls drawn out in this manner become part of the Salubri’s soul while the healing process takes place, and she may return it to its proper body at any time. Bereft of a soul, the target’s body is vacant, but alive; it obeys the Salubri’s commands. The body may be forced into combat, but it’s at a two-die penalty due to lack of coordination (Healers consider this gravely unethical, even if they absorbed the subject’s soul as a defensive measure). The subject’s body and soul were never meant to be separated; holding a soul for longer than strictly necessary—usually, a night—is considered a sin against most Roads (especially Humanity and Heaven). The soul may eventually attempt to escape; this is resisted by a Willpower roll (difficulty of the trapped soul’s Wits + Empathy), attempted once per week. The Salubri may only hold one soul at a time.
By spending five Willpower points over the course of an hour, she may roll Manipulation + Empathy (difficulty 8) to increase the subject’s Road rating. The Salubri may only restore a maximum number of points equal to her Empathy rating, and may not raise the subject’s Humanity or Path higher than the sum of the target’s relevant Virtues. She may expend additional Willpower to cure the subject’s Derangements. Malkavians may be cured of their clan weakness, but only for a night.
••••• • Father’s Judgment
The Blood is Caine’s gift. The Salubri pronounce judgment on those who misuse it. Their third eye glowing as silver as Raphael’s soft halo, the Unicorns render a portion of the target’s vitae inert, blocking them from powering their Disciplines or healing their undead frame by sheer effort of will. The target feels their blood seize within them, clotting into dead dark chunks. Even powerful elders fear repeated use of this power.
System: The Healer spends a Willpower point and rolls Manipulation + Medicine or Empathy (difficulty 7) against a target of a Cainite within line of sight, contested by the victim’s Willpower roll (difficulty 9). For each success on the roll, a blood point in the target’s pool is rendered unusable for any purpose—healing, Disciplines, ghouling, or anything else. The target may spend Willpower to unclot their vitae, one point per blood point, but otherwise may not spend or discharge the dead blood in any way.
• Sense Death
A healer learns a subject’s illnesses to cure them. The warrior learns so they know where to strike.
System: This power works identically to Sense Life, save that Sense Death may not see how many wounds a target has suffered nor scrutinize a mortal’s blood. In exchange, Warriors may analyze the target’s natural soak rating (for two successes) and determine the amount of vitae currently in a vampire or ghoul’s blood pool (for three). Knowing both Sense Life and Sense Death grants an additional two dice to the Perception + Empathy or Medicine roll; if known, they may be activated with a single roll, with successes counting towards both.
•• Morphean Blow
The Healers use sleep to accelerate the healing process. Warriors use sleep to incapacitate enraged foes. Stories abound of Salubri Warriors quelling Lupines with a single slap, leaving the beasts vulnerable to the killing blow.
System: This power works identically to the Gift of Sleep; despite the name, Warriors may dull their wound penalties with this Discipline. Knowing both Gift of Sleep and Morphean Blow grants an additional two dice in the resisted Willpower roll to pacify the target. This Discipline may be used in combat as part of a Brawl attack.
••• Burning Touch
The character’s grasp inflicts searing pain, a feeling like being burnt with a red-hot iron. This power inflicts no damage, but painfully disrupts the vital energies of the target. Prolonged or repeated exposure can be used to torture a victim.
System: The vampire must grasp the target (a Dexterity + Brawl roll). The character spends at least one blood point to activate this power; each blood point spent reduces the victim’s dice pools by two for so long as the Cyclops grasps the victim and for the next turn thereafter. Each activation of the power causes one level of bashing damage to the target from sheer physical strain. The pain triggers Rötschreck in vampires (as “being burned”), and Warriors have occasionally used it as a blunt demonstration of the victim’s spiritual weakness.
•••• Armor of Caine’s Fury
The third eye opens, blazing redder than the setting sun. This radiance spreads along the Salubri’s desiccated veins in a flash, until their entire body is enveloped in a web of radiant light. The Cyclopes consider this (and their talent at Fortitude) to be the chief reasons they are so feared in war. The Ventrue have also expressed envy of this power, and have invited Salubri into their domains to teach them Valeren in exchange for patronage.
System: The player spends one blood point and rolls Stamina + Melee (difficulty 7). For each success, the vampire gains one point of armor, to a maximum of five points. This stacks with any worn armor. Additionally, for every two successes rolled, she gains an additional die to resist Rötschreck. This power lasts for the scene.
••••• Ending the Watch
The Warrior Caste traces their origin to Samiel’s ancient fury in the days after the Second City. Yet ancient tales record the Salubri of Enoch walking the streets, laying hands upon the terminally ill and freeing their souls from mortality’s coil. In return, the Salubri gained both wisdom and strength of will. Despite their anger, the Warriors retain the fundamentally peaceful disposition of Clan Salubri, and this power reflects their hewing to the clan’s original nature. When acting as death watch, the third eye’s iris flares gold, absorbing the essence of the mortal’s departing soul into the Salubri’s own.
This power may only be used on a dying mortal (all health boxes full of lethal damage, but not yet dead) or one who truly wishes death without coercion. Generally, the mortally wounded or the elderly are targets of this power, but those of a deeply melancholic temperament or torture victims are equally viable. Tremere whisper rumors of unforgiving Warriors afflicting captives with the Burning Touch, then taking their souls when they beg for death.
System: The Salubri spends a Willpower point and lays a hand over a valid target’s heart, peacefully and painlessly killing them. If the vampire kills with a melee attack, they may make a reflexive Dexterity + Brawl roll to touch the target and activate this power. This is a mercy killing, for all the difference that makes to a vampire walking their Road; as always, killing done outside the heat of battle may necessitate a Degeneration roll. The player then rolls the character’s Perception + Empathy (difficulty 7); upon a success, the target’s soul is absorbed. For each success on the absorption roll, the Salubri may do one of two things:
• Recall facts of the target’s memory, requiring a separate Intelligence + Empathy roll (difficulty 5) for each factoid of significance. With the soul’s vitality residing inside the Salubri, he knows much of what the dead man did—interesting secrets, rare treasures, or vital documents. The Salubri may choose to let pertinent or pressing information come to him (Storyteller’s choice) but this raises the difficulty of the roll to 7.
• Absorb the living energies of the mortal’s soul to bolster their own; each success allows the Warrior to recoup a point of Willpower. The Warrior may store these Willpower points above their normal maximum (to a total of 10).
The soul remains within the Salubri’s own for as long as he wishes, but only one soul may be contained at a time. Once the successes on the roll have been used by either or both options, the remnants of the soul fade, venturing to their final destination. The corpse of the target may be fed upon, regardless of clan weakness. Their blood tastes rich and hot, even long nights after death; however, they may not be Embraced.
••••• • Samiel’s Vengeance
In the baleful blue glow of the third eye, the Warrior sights their foe’s doom. Invoking the name of their progenitor, the Salubri strikes with superhuman speed and unerring accuracy.
System: This power costs three blood points, and may target any foe who has struck the Salubri (even if the strike did no damage). Any melee-range attack made by the Warrior strikes as if the Warrior had succeeded with all of his Dexterity + Melee or Brawling pool (including dice from Celerity), with two dice added to the damage pool. Armor only affords half its rating against the fury of the blow. This power may be used only once per turn, and only works with bare limbs or melee weapons.
Eye of Unforgiving Heaven
Auspex 4, Warrior Valeren 4
The Salubri’s third eye opens impossibly wide and burns an incandescent gold. The orb is a reflection of the Salubri’s inner virtue, but manifests as the sun at zenith, illuminating the area and searing undead flesh.
System: The vampire stares in the general direction he wishes the power to illuminate, while spending one point each of blood and Willpower (per turn). He then rolls Conscience (difficulty 6). Success causes the Cainite’s third eye to open and glow, shedding light as direct sunlight, inflicting damage per turn to all vampires in line of sight as per their exposure. As the power’s light emits as radiance rather a beam, it cannot discriminate between friend or foe. The Salubri isn’t immune to his light, suffering three dice of lethal damage each turn, soaked normally. Any such wounds suffered manifest as bloody tears weeping from the third eye. Only Cainites who do ascribe to the Virtue of Conscience may benefit from this power.
Experience Cost: 28
Fortitude 4, Healer Valeren 4
Uriel’s sun-curse cannot mar Raphael’s promise of redemption. Their purity known to all, the Salubri may briefly walk in brightest sunlight without fear, the sunlight searing his Curse and not his flesh.
System: The vampire may reflexively spend one blood point whenever the vampire is exposed to sunlight. Until the vampire exhausts his blood pool, he need not make Rötschreck rolls. Such damage is rolled, rather than applied as automatic successes, and soaked normally with only Fortitude. Each level of injury burns one point of the Cainite’s vitae rather than inflicting actual wounds; once the vampire runs out of blood, he suffers damage normally and must fear frenzy. Only Cainites who ascribe to the Virtues of Conscience and Self-Control may benefit from this power.
Experience Cost: 28
Glare of Lies
Auspex 2, Valeren 1
The third eye opens, then narrows in close scrutiny. The Salubri’s eye begins to discern truth and deception as easily as light scattered from a crystal. Lies become obvious to the third eye’s sight, allowing a perceptive Salubri to easily come to judgment.
System: Any lies told in the Salubri’s presence must succeed on a contested Manipulation + Subterfuge roll (difficulty 8) against the Salubri’s Perception + Empathy (difficulty 6). Success means the subject still lies, but the Salubri recognizes the deception. She cannot, however, sense subtler deceptions such as omissions or half-truths.
Experience Cost: 14
Chapter Seven: Dramatic Sysems
In V20 Dark Ages, tensions run high, tempers run hot. Cainites pretend they’re civil creatures, but they are monsters, each one capable of massive devastation at a second’s notice.
Often, a violent encounter can be handled with a single dice roll like any other action. When a Brujah with Potence decides to snap a mortal’s neck, investing the blood of Caine to fuel her undead muscles, a Strength + Brawl roll works fine in the heat of the moment. But when relatively matched opponents square off, or when numbers or mitigating circumstances come into play, the following rules allow for a more detailed, dramatic combat scene.
Setting the Stage
As each turn begins, the Storyteller should give a lay of the land, putting everyone into position, and describing what they see. This moment of recap will save frustration on the back end, and help the scene to flow quicker.
Consider a map. You don’t need a table full of complex miniature terrain (unless you want that!) but draw a little sketch to keep everyone aware of positioning and the tides of battle. This is particularly helpful in large-scale combats. If you have extra dice, they can be used to position characters, and you can even use them to track initiative or wounds in an easy-to-see manner.
Types of Combat
Characters may engage in two major categories of combat; close combat and ranged combat.
Close Combat: This includes unarmed, grappling, or hand-to-hand weapon combat. Unarmed combat is based on Dexterity + Brawl rolls, armed combat uses Dexterity + Melee. Unarmed attacks normally must occur within one yard or meter. Armed attacks normally occur within two yards or meters.
Ranged Combat: This occurs when characters throw weapons, or use ranged weapons like bows or slings. Characters must normally be within line of sight to engage in ranged combat.
Normally, a turn takes whatever time it needs to take. In a combat scene, turns are about three seconds. At the start of each turn, everyone determines their characters’ Initiative placement. Then, in order of initiative, players take and resolve their actions. After all actions, the Storyteller sums up the scene, and if the fight has not ended or moved beyond dice rolls, you determine initiative anew and start a new turn.
Initiative determines how quickly your character moves to action, and in what order actions are resolved.
Every character possesses an initiative rating equal to their Dexterity + Wits + Celerity dots. At the beginning of every turn, roll one die, and add the initiative rating to the result. Any wound penalties subtract from this number. That’s your character’s initiative for the turn. Every player involved rolls, including the Storyteller for any participating Storyteller characters. If two characters share a result, the character with the higher initiative rating goes first. If they share initiative ratings, their actions occur simultaneously.
Once initiative’s determined, start at the top of the roster, and move down through to resolve actions. Any player may choose to delay his character’s action to a later point in the roster.
If a character chooses to take a defensive action, is may occur at any time in the initiative roster, in response to another character’s action.
Lastly, any addition actions taken as result of a split dice pool (see p. XX) occur at the end of the turn. If multiple characters are using split dice pools, resolve their additional actions in initiative order as well.
In a combat scene, most actions will be attacks. Other actions are handled normally, with standard dice pools. At Storyteller’s discretion, some actions might not be allowed in the scope of a combat turn. For example, repairing a suit of armor most certainly takes longer than a normal combat allows. Attack rolls depend on the actions in question:
Close Combat: roll Dexterity + Brawl for unarmed attacks, or Dexterity + Melee for armed attacks.
Ranged Combat: Roll Dexterity + Archery for bow attacks, or Dexterity + Athletics for thrown weapons.
Most attack rolls are made at difficulty 6. Weapons and other circumstances may modify these dice pools or difficulties. For example, firing a bow at extreme distance should levy a difficulty penalty. If you roll no successes, the attack fails, and the character causes her opponent no damage. With a botch, she makes a major error, her weapon breaks or jams, or perhaps she strikes an ally or unintended bystander.
Characters may dodge, block, or parry attacks, so long as they’re willing to devote their action to defense, or split their dice pool appropriately. Before a player makes an attack roll, the opponent must declare any defensive maneuvers he wishes to take.
Successes on a defensive maneuver subtract from an attacker’s successes. If this reduces an attack to zero successes, the attack fails. Otherwise, it reduces the damage dice pool.
A character may take the following defensive maneuvers, if he’s properly equipped:
Block: The character may block attacks that cause bashing damage, by strategically using his body to deflect the blow. Roll Dexterity + Brawl. He may block lethal and aggravated attacks if he has Fortitude or is wearing appropriate armor.
Dodge: The character may dodge any attack he’s aware of. Roll Dexterity + Athletics. If he has no room to maneuver, a block or parry may be required at Storyteller discretion. If dodging an arrow or other very fast ranged weapon, dodge actions are made at +2 difficulty. Active use of Celerity mitigates this penalty.
Parry: The character uses a weapon to deflect a brawling or melee attack. Roll Dexterity + Melee to parry. If parrying an unarmed attack, if the defender rolls more successes than the attacker, apply those additional successes as a successful attack against the attacker. The attacker may not roll to defend against this attack; she may only soak. Shields and certain weapons can be used to influence parry attempts .
You may choose to forgo other actions in the turn, and dedicate your character’s action to defending. Instead of splitting his dice pool, roll his full dice pool against the first attack, and levy a cumulative -1 die to each defensive roll thereafter.
After defense is factored in, if any successes remain on the attack, the attack hits. In that case, you roll a damage dice pool to determine how hard the hit sinks. Damage dice pools are almost always difficulty 6.
Every weapon has a damage rating. Add that damage rating to the net successes rolled on the attack. Some damage ratings are based on the character’s Strength, whereas ranged damage tends to be rated by the weapon alone.
Once you’ve rolled the damage, each success means one health level of damage. First, characters are allowed to soak damage, however.
Damage comes in three types; Bashing, Lethal, and Aggravated. Each increases in severity, lethality, and difficulty to defend against and soak. See healing times on p. XX for mortal healing times; vampires heal only with blood.
Damage rolls may never botch; treat a botched roll as a normal failure.
Bashing: Bashing damage comes from punches, sticks, and other sources of blunt trauma that are unlikely to instantly kill a victim. All characters use their full Stamina ratings to soak bashing damage. Vampires shrug off bashing damage as trivial; halve all bashing damage a vampire takes after soaking, and round down. Mark bashing damage down the health track with a slash “/”. Mortals with a health track full of bashing damage fall unconscious. Kindred continue moving as if they were Crippled (-5).
Lethal: Lethal damage comes from bladed weapons and other sources of injury that cause immediate, threatening wounds to mortal flesh. With Storyteller discretion, blunt attacks aimed at a mortal’s vitals (difficulty 8 or 9 to target) cause lethal damage. Cainites soak lethal damage with their full Stamina. Mortals may not soak lethal damage without armor. Mark lethal damage with an “X” on the health track. Cainites with a health track full of lethal damage fall to torpor (see p. XX). Mortals die.
Aggravated: Aggravated damage is a damage type specific to Cainites and other supernatural creatures. Mortals treat aggravated wounds just like lethal. Aggravated damage reflects those deadly banes to vampiric existence such as the sun, fire, and the teeth and claws of other vampires and Lupines. This damage may only be soaked with a vampire’s Fortitude dots. A single level of aggravated damage requires a full day’s rest and five blood points. The vampire may spend these five over any number of days, but the wound will not heal until the fifth is spent. He may spend five additional blood to heal additional levels while he slumbers. A Cainite with a health track full of aggravated damage suffers Final Death.
After rolling damage, victims may soak damage. This reflects the body’s ability to shrug off some degree of physical punishment. As noted above, characters may soak different types of damage with different traits. Roll the soak dice pool (usually Stamina + Fortitude + Armor), difficulty 6. Each success removes one health level from the wound caused. Note that soaking is always allowed; a character does not need to use her action to soak, nor does she need to be aware of the attack. Soak rolls may not botch; treat botches as standard failures.
Worn armor adds to your character’s soak dice pool. Add the armor’s rating directly. Armor protects against bashing, lethal, and aggravated wounds. However, the Cainite banes of fire and sunlight ignore armor.
A character may attempt to bypass armor with +2 difficulty to her attack roll. This reflects finding weak points or breaches in the armor. If successful, ignore the armor’s soak dice. Armor can also be destroyed; any time an attack’s damage roll doubles the armor’s rating, the armor is rendered useless.
The armor chart on p. XX features a variety of armors. Each has a rating to add to soak pools, as well as a penalty applied to initiative and all Dexterity-based actions. Additionally, some weapons pierce armor. If a weapon has Armor Piercing: X, it denies the victim X dice of armor soak.
Shields and Parrying Weapons
Characters may carry shields, or weapons designed to defend her from attacks. These weapons impose an increased difficulty to attack her. Additionally, they influence the difficulty of Parry maneuvers she takes.
Combat Turn Summary
Roll a die, add it to your initiative rating. Compare totals. Move down the roster, resolving actions.
Unarmed close-combat attacks use Dexterity + Brawl.
Armed close-combat attacks use Dexterity + Melee.
Ranged attacks use Dexterity + Archery or Dexterity + Athletics for thrown objects.
Before attack rolls, the victim’s player may choose to take a defensive action. Blocking uses Dexterity + Brawl, Dodging uses Dexterity + Athletics, and Parrying uses Dexterity + Melee. Defense successes reduce the attacker’s successes.
Roll damage rating plus the net attack successes. Every success is a health level of damage.
Once damage is rolled, roll soak. Soak rolls depend on the character type and the damage type used, but generally use Stamina + Fortitude + Armor for a dice pool. Successes reduce the damage caused.
These maneuvers add complexity and nuance to your combat scenes. As with all rules, use them if they work at your table. If you want a quicker, less strategic experience, they’re not necessary.
Maneuvers may list the following game statistics, reflecting rules changes reflecting the maneuver:
Dice Pool: The dice pool used for the action. This includes relevant traits and modifiers.
Difficulty: Any modifiers to the action’s difficulty. This is expressed as a + or – dice.
Damage: The damage dice pool if the attack is successful. Remember to add the net attack successes. Damage depends on the weapons used (or lack thereof).
These maneuvers are not specifically attacks or defense, but affect the battlefield in noticeable ways.
Ambush: Ambushes are all about the element of surprise, and striking first while an opponent stands unaware. Roll Dexterity + Stealth as a resisted action against the victim’s Perception + Alertness. If the attacker scores more successes, she gets one free, unopposed action against the victim. On a tie, the attacker still attacks first, but the victim may perform a defensive maneuver. If the defender gets more successes, initiative proceeds normally.
Blind Fighting: Attacking while blind or in pitch darkness levies a +2 penalty. Ranged attacks cannot normally be made blind.
Diversion: A character may attempt to distract an opponent, opening him up to attacks from allies. To do this, use a relevant dice pool such as Charisma + Subterfuge, resisted with Wits + Alertness. If the character achieves more successes than her victim, the victim’s defensive actions are all taken at +2 difficulty for the next turn.
Flank and Rear Attacks: Characters attacking from flank gain an additional die to their attack pool. Attacking from the rear awards two dice.
Movement: A character may move half her running distance (see Movement, p. XX) and still take an action.
Multiple Actions: If you need to take multiple actions in a turn, this must be decided before the first action you take. The first action is taken at +1 difficulty, with -1 dice. The second is at +2, with -2 dice. Each additional action increases in difficulty and decreases in dice. Multiple actions cannot be made if their difficulty would be 10 or higher or if they’d have zero dice. A character may still only make a single attack action per turn, without the Celerity Discipline (see p. XX). If the character chooses to only use defensive actions, use the Full Defense rules on p. XX. Remember that additional non-defensive actions take place at the end of the turn. The Storyteller should adjudicate what actions are appropriate for multiple actions, and which should take an entire turn alone.
Tactics: Characters may issue tactical commands, or enact live strategies to make her team fight more efficiently. With an Intelligence + Leadership roll, you may offer one ally a -1 difficulty to their rolls for the turn per success.
Targeting: Aiming for a specific location levies a difficulty penalty, but may offer certain advantages and/or heightened damage dice, at Storyteller discretion. One such example
Target Size Difficulty Damage
Medium (Limb, Sword, Shield) +1 No Modifier
Small (Head, Hand, Knife) +2 +1
Precises (Eye, Heart, Ring) +3 +2
Close Combat Maneuvers
These are some sample maneuvers for use in close combat situations.
THE FOLLOWING MANEUVERS HAVE GAME STATISTICS BENEATH THEM. THEY’RE TABBED LIKE A CHART. Look to V20 for an example, but there’s one less trait listed.
Bite: Once a vampire (or Lupine) has successfully used a clinch, hold, or tackle maneuver, she may bite her opponent on the next turn in order to cause harm or to feed. A bite to harm causes aggravated damage, but does not cause The Kiss (see p. XX). If she bites to feed, she does not cause damage, but causes The Kiss, and may drain three blood points per turn.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Brawl + 1 Difficulty: Normal Damage: Strength + 1
Claw: This attack is available to characters with claws caused by the Protean, Vicissitude, or other Disciplines. It’s also available to Lupines and other creatures with natural claws. The claw’s source determines the damage type.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Brawl Difficulty: Normal Damage: Strength + 1
Clinch: The character clinches with the target. On the first turn, the attacker rolls Strength damage. On additional turns, both characters act on their initiatives. A combatant can cause Strength damage automatically, or attempt to break the clinch. A character may take no other physical actions until he’s broken free. To escape a clinch instead of causing damage, roll a resisted Strength + Brawl roll. If you roll more successes, you escape. If not, the clinch continues.
Dice Pool: Strength + Brawl Difficulty: Normal Damage: Strength
Disarm: To disarm requires striking an opponent’s weapon. If successful, roll damage normally. If the damage successes exceed the victim’s Strength dots, he takes no damage but the weapon flies yards or meters equal to the additional successes.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Melee Difficulty: +1 Damage: None
Great Blow: The character puts her all into the attack, swinging her whole body into causing the most harm possible. Use the appropriate dice pool for the attack (Dexterity + Brawl or Dexterity + Melee) with +1 difficulty. Your character may take no defensive actions in the turn.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Brawl/Melee Difficulty: +1 Damage: +2
Hold: The attacker grabs and holds the target until the victim’s next action. At which time, roll resisted Strength + Brawl actions. The subject remains immobilized, unable to take other physical actions if he does not exceed the attacker’s successes.
Dice Pool: Strength + Brawl Difficulty: Normal Damage: None
Kick: Attacking with a kick causes more than normal damage, but is more difficult than a punch. With more dramatic kicks, the Storyteller can further modify these rules.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Brawl Difficulty: +1 Damage: Strength + 1
Multiple Opponents: A character attempting to fight off multiple opponents suffers a cumulative +1 difficulty to all actions for every opponent beyond the first (to a maximum +4 penalty).
Strike: This is the basic unarmed attack action. The character lashes out with fists.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Brawl Difficulty: Normal Damage: Strength
Riposte: After a successful defense, your character strikes back, using her opponent’s momentum to her advantage. To Riposte, you must have already used a defensive maneuver successfully this turn (a block or dodge applies, not just parry). This means using multiple actions, so note the multiple action difficulty penalty in addition to the Riposte penalty. When Riposting, the opponent suffers +2 difficulty to defend against your attack.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Brawl/Melee Difficulty: +1 Damage: Normal +1
Stake: The character attempts to plunge a piece of sharpened wood into (probably) a vampire’s chest. With three damage successes, the heart is pierced. This immobilizes vampires (see p. XX) or kills humans.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Melee Difficulty: +3 Damage: Per Weapon
Sweep: The character attempts to trip her opponent. If successful, this maneuver causes knockdown (see Maneuver Complications, p. XX) in addition to its damage. Some weapons, such as quarterstaffs or whips, may be used to trip an opponent. Use the weapon’s damage instead.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Brawl/Melee Difficulty: +1 Damage: Strength; Knockdown
Tackle: The attacker rushes her opponent, shoving him to the ground. If successful, both combatants must roll Dexterity + Athletics (difficulty 7) or suffer knockdown (see Maneuver Complications, p. XX). Even if successful, the character is unbalanced, suffering +1 difficulty to all actions for the next turn.
Dice Pool: Strength + Brawl Difficulty: +1 Damage: Strength + 1
Weapon Length: One of the primary advantages weaponry offers in hand-to-hand combat is reach. Less armed characters must close in distance, which takes valuable time and puts them at risk. A character attacking a character with substantially larger weapon suffers -1 die to his attacks, and -2 to his initiative. This may put him later on the initiative roster, once he’s declared his action.
Weapon Strike: A standard blow, thrust, or jab with a weapon. See Melee Weapons, p. XX, for specifics.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Melee Difficulty: Normal Damage: By Weapon
Ranged Combat Maneuvers
Ranged weapons such as thrown spears and longbows are a staple of warfare in the Dark Medieval World. At this moment, the Welsh longbow is coming to prominence on the battlefield. These maneuvers are for use with thrown or fired weapons.
Aiming: The attacker adds one die to her dice pool for a single shot, for each turn spent aiming. She may benefit from a number of turns equal to her Perception dots, but must have a dot in Archery (or Athletics for thrown weapons) to use this maneuver. The attacker may not take other actions while aiming. She may not aim at a target moving faster than a walk.
Cover: Seeking cover increases an attacker’s difficulty to hit your character. Consult the chart below for difficulties dependent on cover. Ranged attacks from cover suffer the same penalty but one less. For example, a character behind a wall is at +2 difficulty to hit, but her attacks are made at +1 difficulty.
Light (Lying Prone) +1
Good (Behind Wall) +2
Superior (Only Head Exposed) +3
Hail of Arrows: A sufficiently trained archer may fire multiple arrows in rapid succession. This breaks the normal prohibition against multiple attacks in a turn. An archer may launch as many arrows as she has Archery dots using the multiple action rules. Remember that an attack cannot be made at difficulty 10 or higher as part of a multiple action. However, she may only benefit from the aim maneuver on the first attack of the hail.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Archery Difficulty: Normal
Impale: As with staking (see p. XX), an archer can put a shaft of wood through a victim’s heart to devastating effect.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Archery Difficulty: +3 Damage: Per Weapon
Reloading: Reloading mechanical weapons such as crossbows requires five full turns, minus one turn per dot of Archery.
Suppressive Fire: A skilled archer can hold off an enemy advance with rapid, strategic use of a bow. She may only use this maneuver at long or medium range, and may not use it as part of a multiple action. It requires three or more dots of Archery. She fires off a handful of arrows in front of her advancing opponent. If the opponent stays back, he is in no direct danger. If he advances, any defensive maneuvers he takes are at +2 difficulty, and the archer’s attack is made at -2 difficulty.
Dice Pool: Dexterity + Archery Difficulty: -2 Damage: Per Weapon
The following complications are examples of occurrences that can influence the flow of combat. The Storyteller should use these and add her own as the need arises. Some are mentioned as parts of maneuvers (such as knockdown), but don’t let those maneuvers limit you.
Blinded: Add two dice to attack a blinded character. Additionally, blinded characters are at +2 difficulty on any action requiring vision, including defensive rolls.
Crippled Limb: If a character suffers a targeted attack, it may cripple a limb temporarily at Storyteller discretion. Actions using that limb suffer +2 difficulty so long as the health levels causing the complication remain.
Dazed: Any time a single attack causes more damage after soak than a mortal’s Stamina, or a vampire or other supernatural being’s Stamina + 2, the victim is dazed. The target spends his next turn shaking off the attack.
Immobilization: If a target is struggling but immobilized (held, for example), make attacks against him with two additional dice. Completely immobilized (tied, staked, or paralyzed) targets are hit automatically. Cause damage equal to the damage dice pool, without rolling.
Knockdown: The victim falls to the ground. After suffering knockdown, the victim can stand with a Dexterity + Athletics roll at difficulty 6. If he fails, he loses his action trying to stand. If he succeeds, reduce his initiative by two for the next turn.
Close Combat Maneuvers
Maneuver Dice Pool Difficulty Damage
Bite Dex + Brawl Normal Str + 1 (A)
Block Dex + Brawl Normal None®
Claw Dex + Brawl Normal Str + 1 (A)
Clinch Dex + Brawl Normal Str ©
Disarm Dex + Melee Normal +1 Special
Dodge Dex + Athletics Normal None®
Great Blow Dex + Brawl/Melee +1 +2
Hold Str + Brawl Normal None ©
Kick Dex + Brawl +1 +1
Parry Dex + Melee Normal None®
Riposte Dex + Brawl/Melee +1 +1
Stake Dex + Melee +3 Special
Strike Dex + Brawl Normal Str
Sweep Dex + Brawl/Melee +1 Str (K)
Tackle Str + Brawl +1 Str + 1 (K)
Weapon Strike Str + Melee Normal Weapon
(A): The maneuver inflicts aggravated damage.
©: The maneuver continues into further turns.
(K): The maneuver causes knockdown.
®: The maneuver reduces an opponent’s attack successes.
Maneuver Dice Pool Difficulty Damage
Aiming +1 per turn Normal Weapon
Hail of Arrows Dex + Archery Normal Weapon
Impale Dex + Archery +3 Special
Suppressive Fire Dex + Archery -2 Weapon
Class Rating Penalty
Class One (Heavy Clothing) 1 -
Class Two (Leather) 2 1
Class Three (Composite) 3 1
Class Four (Heavy) 4 2
Class Five (Plate Armor) 5 3
Damage: The number of dice used to determine damage. Add this number to the net successes rolled on the initial attack, and roll that many dice. B denotes bashing damage, L denotes lethal, and A denotes aggravated.
Conceal: Roughly how difficult an item is to conceal, based on clothing. P = Pouch, C = Loose Clothing, L = Long Cloak, N = May Not Be Concealed.
Min Str: The minimum Strength required to use the weapon. Difficulty increases by 1 for each dot beneath the minimum. Attempting to use a weapon marked Two-Handed with one hand raises the Min Str by two.
Range: For ranged weapons, this is how many yards (or meters) in which the weapon can be used without penalty. It can be used at twice that range at +1 difficulty, or three times at +2. Longer shots cannot be attempted.
Weapon Damage Conceal Minimum Str Notes
Hatchet Str + 1L C 2 Can be thrown
Hand Ax Str + 2L L 3
Battle-Ax Str + 4L N 4 Two-Handed
Pick Ax Str + 2L N 4 Armor Piercing: 3
Sap Str + 1B P 1 Count opponent’s Stamina -1 for
determining Dazing (p. XX)
Club Str + 2B C 2
Mace Str + 3B L 3
Morning Star Str + 3L L 3
Quarterstaff Str + 3B N 2 +2 dice to Sweep
Warhammer Str + 4B N 4 Two-Handed
Knife Str + 0L P 2
Dagger Str + 1L C 1 Armor Piercing: 2
Saber Str + 2L L 3
Broadsword Str + 2L N 3 May be used Two-Handed, with Min Str 4,
Str + 3L
Greatsword Str + 4L N 4 Two-Handed
Halberd Str + 4L N 3 Difficulty +1, Two-Handed
Javelin Str + 0L N 2
Lance Str + 3L N 3 Armor Piercing: 3
Pitchfork Str + 1L N 2 Armor Piercing: 1, Two-Handed
Spear Str + 2L N 2 Armor Piercing: 2, may be used
Two-Handed, with Min Str 3, Str +3L
Weapon Damage Range Conceal Min Str Notes
Crossbow 3L 90 L 3 Armor Piercing: 2
Hvy Crsbw 4L 90 N 4 Armor Piercing: 3
Longbow 4L 120 N 4 Armor Piercing: 4
Shortbow 2L 60 L 3 Armor Piercing: 2
Sling 3B 40 90 2 N
Dagger Str +1L 20 C
Hatchet Str +1L 20 C 2 +1 difficulty
Javelin Str +2L 50 N 2 Armor Piercing: 2
Knife Str +0L 15 P 2 +1 difficulty
Rock Str +0B 40 P 2 +1 difficulty
Spear Str +2L 40 N 3 Armor Piercing: 2
Shields and Parrying Weapons
Item Parry Difficulty Attack Penalty Notes
Small Shield 4 +/-0
Standard Shield 6 +1
Dagger 5 +/-0
Sword 6 +1 Penalty only applies to
Appendix A: Merits and Flaws
Everything on the character sheet speaks about the abilities and personality of your character. Is he or she strong-willed? Athletic? Learned? Good in a fight? What does he or she believe? Who are his or her friends? Merits and Flaws allow you to add yet another layer of depth to your character by providing mechanical benefits and drawbacks to certain narrative circumstances. These are optional materials, so your Storyteller has the final say on whether or not to allow them. Storytellers and players are encouraged to discuss the use of Merits and Flaws prior to beginning a campaign. It is also recommended that the Storyteller choose a limit on the number of Merits and Flaws that can be taken. Some suggestions include: no more than 5, 7, or 10 total points of Merits and Flaws, all Merits must be balanced out with equal points of Flaws, or a particular set of assigned freebie points to be spent solely on Merits and Flaws.
Keeping an open line of communication between players and Storyteller about the expectations for story impact is paramount. Players should be clear about how they would prefer their Merit or Flaw to appear in the story. Storytellers should also share their interpretations of the same (provided the player does not want to be surprised) and together you should come to an agreement. Doing so prevents hard feelings and disappointment and makes for a harmonious table.
What is written in this chapter is not gospel. Feel free to customize the flavor associated with a specific mechanical benefit (or drawback) to your likes. As an example, if you would prefer the Sturdy merit to instead represent your character’s unusually large size, that is perfectly acceptable – provided, of course, that you clear any changes with the Storyteller first.
Physical Merits and Flaws
Physical Merits and Flaws affect your character’s corporeal self or physical actions, such as combat or athletic feats, etc. physical Merits may reflect a character’s innate abilities or the result of years of mortal training while physical Flaws may be the result of genetics or unfortunate accidents.
Ambidextrous (1 point): Whether by training or a gift of birth, you are equally adept with both hands. You must still split actions as normal, but you do not incur any additional penalties for taking actions with your non-dominant hand.
Deceptive Eating (1 point): By some fortune, you are able to consume and enjoy mortal cuisine, thereby adding another layer to your guise of mortality. When applicable, the Storyteller may rule a lower difficulty or reduced penalties to rolls to convince others that you are human. You cannot digest or derive nourishment from normal food, however, and eventually must find a time and a place to heave it back up.
Blush of Health (2 points): The Embrace that claimed you did not entirely leach away the tells of your former life. Your skin is cool to the touch, rather than cold, and retains a healthy fullness as if blood skill coursed through your veins. You easily pass as a mortal against all but the most thorough examination and the Storyteller may choose to lower the difficulty or reduce penalties to rolls to convince others of your mortality. Cappadocians and Nosferatu are barred from taking this Merit.
Efficient Digestion (3 points): Your internal vampiric systems work faster and more effectively than most, granting you more a greater yield from feeding. Gain an additional blood point for every two you consume.
Sturdy (4 points): Training, hardships, or natural ability have inured your body to pain and damage. While you are not necessarily a hulking brute, anyone who has seen you in action knows that you can take more damage than the average individual. You gain an additional Bruised health level and the Storyteller may award you with any appropriate bonuses when your innate toughness comes into play.
Without a Trace (2 points): When you stray from the paths of civilization and wander into the wilderness, leaves, grass and moss grow back where you pass and the earth itself moves to fill your footprints. You leave no noticeable traces of your passing, not even a scent. Normal attempts to track you (such as with Survival or ordinary dogs) automatically fail. Supernatural attempts, such as with Auspex, are done so at and Flaw if it’s 4 or less. Follow the chart below for the mechanical effects on the application of your aura.
Road Rating Aura Modifier
10 -3 difficulty
9-8 -2 difficulty
7-6 -1 difficulty
5 no modifier
4-3 +1 difficulty
2 +2 difficulty
1 +3 difficulty
Merits and Flaws work on a scale of one to five. One point Merits apply irregularly or provide only a small bonus (often a decrease in difficulty by 1 in particular instances). One point Flaws cause a problem every-so-often (the Storyteller should never let a player get away with something for nothing), an increase in difficulty by 1 to specific circumstances, or narrative issues that affect only the character. Three point Merits apply regularly, have a notable mechanical impact (such as decreased difficulty up to 3) or benefit the character and his or her immediate allies. Three point Flaws are an expected source of trouble, have a lasting mechanical drawback, or affect the entire coterie. At five points, Merits are game-changing, allowing characters to wholly bend or ignore specific rules, or grant a benefit that affects everyone involved with the character. On the other hand, five point Flaws are true disasters, either barring a character from benefitting from a certain mechanic or inflicting a terrible penalty. Flaws of this level may also affect entire communities associated with the character or be unavoidable until they come to pass. Storytellers should consider the impact of five point Merits or Flaws before permitting them. Also, consider reducing the level of a Flaw if it can offer a circumstantial advantage as part of its drawback.
Appendix B: Bloodlines
Here are the three unique Laibon lineages.
[Perfect stillness, followed by a single branch snapping and a quick, gurgling sound. Then, perfect stillness again.]
Long ago, on Africa’s west coast just above the bend in the continent, a young hunter strayed far from home. His tribe was plagued by famine as all animals in the area had died, and he ventured out far to seek prey. What he found was an ancient darkness. Born before the universe was formed, the darkness hid under the earth in an effort to escape the hateful light. Now the hunter came across the cave where the darkness lay and, lured by its song, explored inside. Eager to find a host made of flesh and boneand hoping that this would yield protection from the sun, the darkness poured into him. But it was too eager, too fast, too much, and the hunter died.
The next night, animated by a darkness that acknowledged neither life nor death, the hunter rose again. Confused, he returned to his tribe, but as the darkness saw the hated sun-dwellers, its rage rose like bile. When the hunter returned to his senses, his people lay slaughtered at his feet. The hunter, horrified by what he had done, fled deep into the jungle never to return.
The first Bonsam claims never to have shared his curse. It’s possible that he extended the Embrace in the throes of darkness and does not remember, or maybe he is lying. But if he is telling the truth, that opens some interesting, and concerning, possibilities about the Bonsam’s origins.
A Bonsam is typically a loner, and highly territorial at that. He is not inherently violent (though very capable of it if provoked) but does demand that any Laibon or Cainite trespassers move on immediately. Those who do not comply will find themselves dead before they even know they were targeted; the Bonsam is a supremely stealthy hunter. A Bonsam is more tolerant towards others of his kind, since he knows that none of them would willingly linger in a territory marked by another, and thus the trespasser’s stay is temporary.
The Bonsam lineage has spread over the African continent, with each claiming a stretch of desolate jungle for territory. A few years ago though, the Bonsam began to emerge from the jungle and push into the coastal territories, which put them in conflict with the Laibon and Cainites already controlling those regions. Nevertheless, they refuse to turn back and, on the very few occasions that they have spoken about their exodus, tell of a great horror spreading over the jungle.
Sobriquet: Unseen, Stalkers
Appearance: A hunter or warrior during his life, a Bonsam is usually lean and well-muscled. Sires recognize that experience is invaluable, and the Embrace cures most mortal ails; a prospective childe might be middle-aged or older. He cares little for material possessions and owns only what he can carry. His lineage has mastered an art of shapeshifting and a Bonsam, living in the abandoned jungles where no one ever sees him, may exhibit some animal features.
Haven and Prey: A Bonsam prefers to carve out his own habitat far from others. He might have learned to meld into the natural terrain so he can sleep anywhere from the forest floor to the canopy. A spot high enough to keep an overview, yet low enough to grab prey is liked best. A Bonsam who has not yet mastered this power must make do by digging underground tunnels or crafting cocoon-like nests that block the sunlight. Very rarely does a Bonsam fledgling stay in his sire’s shelter, as Bonsam are not the hand-holding type.
A Bonsam feeds on animals as easily as he does on humans. When human prey is available, he rarely has moral qualms about grabbing man, woman or child.
The Embrace: A Bonsam sire prefers to Embrace skilled hunters and sometimes warriors. Gender does not matter to him, but a talent for stalking and killing does. A sire usually chooses a hunter who is skilled, experienced and careful without being cowardly. He might have little patience for foolhardy bravery; he considers this a sign of inexperience and bad judgment, though he can understand bravery born of desperation.
A Bonsam is usually Embraced and abandoned, as sires believe the early nights to be a test of mettle; if the young Bonsam does not survive, then he wasn’t worth the trouble. Not until he has mastered the basics on his own does his sire, or sometimes another elder, approach to teach him more.
Clan Disciplines: Abombwe, Obfuscate, Potence
Weaknesses: Possessed by a darkness before time, a Bonsam inspires primordial terror in mortals. Mortals who fail at a Courage roll (difficulty 7) when seeing a Bonsam either flee in terror or gather up weapons to kill the monster, depending on the size of the mortal group and the Nature of its leader.
Organization: Spread out and territorial, the Bonsam is not beholden to a greater organization. However, he speaks a communal language of bat-like shrieks and whistles that allows him to communicate with other Bonsam in a radius of roughly one mile, depending on terrain and wind conditions. He might also form a temporary pack with others of his kind to track down and kill a threat to their combined territories. These packs are utterly terrifying in their efficiency and, fortunately, usually disband after the deed is done.
Cainites: Intruders claiming territory that is not theirs that they cannot hold.
Brujah: I remember you. Where is your city now? Perhaps you will learn to stand on your own, rather than rely on walls.
Followers of Set: Impressive, turning into a snake like that. Can you do other creatures?
Gangrel: These lone hunters are more like me than my Laibon brethren.
Impundulu: There is power here and they are not afraid to use it. Tread with caution.
Nosferatu: Did the Hunter in the Dark touch you, too?
Ramanga: Leave the Ramanga to their shadow games; they don’t know what real darkness is.
I hold death in my palm. Come, I’ll show you.
Impundulu was a powerful necromancer in life, married to an equally powerful witch named Bomkazi. One day, Impundulu summoned a spirit that was too strong to contain and the creature killed him. Bomkazi mourned her husband and buried him, but next night Impundulu rose again for the spirit had left some of its power in him. Exhilarated by his new power, Impundulu begged Bomkazi to join him in not-death, but she refused; saying that they must be like sun and moon now. Even so, she did agree to stay with him: though she recognized that he had become a monster, Bomkazi still loved Impundulu and the heart wants what it wants.
As the years passed, Bomkazi began to long for a child, which Impundulu could no longer give her. She considered leaving Impundulu for a mortal man, but her heart was with him and she sought another way instead. Calling upon her powerful life magic, Bomkazi enacted a great ritual that allowed her and Impundulu to conceive. The result was a beautiful baby girl, but the ritual came with a price. Immediately after Bomkazi’s conception, both Impundulu and she sensed that something was different about their child: as the product of life and death, the girl, whom they named Esona, was a revenant. Furthermore, the essence of Impundulu and Bomkazi had mingled to such an extent that Bomkazi and her descendants would forever be immune to the blood bond, whilst Impundulu’s lineage could no longer feed from anyone but them.
When Esona was old enough, she willingly offered to sustain her father’s Laibon childe, whom she viewed as her own sibling. From this initial pairing, strong ties grew between Esona’s mortal line, which she named Bomkazi in respect of her mother, and Impundulu’s lineage.
The Impundulu and Bomkazi coexisted like this for millennia, but recently problems have arisen. The Bomkazi line is approaching the point where the witches are either so inbred that they suffer for it, or their blood has become so diluted from the original Bomkazi that it can no longer serve as sustenance. To add to this problem, Impundulu no longer guides his clan for even life witches eventually die and the Laibon refused to feed from Esona or her offspring, after Bomkazi passed away. Left to their own devices, the Impundulu and Bomkazi have searched within their own ranks for the answer and came up blank. Now, they are considering the merit of trading information with Cainite sorcerers.
Sobriquet: Witchkin, Familiars (derogatory)
Appearance: Originally hailing from the Pondo, Zulu, and Xhosa people along the South-East coast of the African Continent, an elder Impundulu is often tall and dark-skinned. Since then, the lineage has spread further north and south along the coastline to other African regions. As a necromancer, the Impundulu usually carries the tools of his trade in a highly personalized variety of artifacts and attributes.
Haven and Prey: Each Impundulu lives with one or more Bomkazi witches in their residence of choice. An Impundulu can only feed from the Bomkazi and, as the witches are both unbondable and powerful in their own magic, this is a purely voluntary relationship. In fact, a fledgling Impundulu making the mistake of treating a Bomkazi like a servant or retainer, will find himself going hungry until he makes amends and is forgiven. A Impundulu and Bomkazi typically stay together for life, though sometimes a clash of personalities makes it best for both to move on. In such cases, unless the Impundulu was truly offensive, the Bomkazi will help him find another companion. The relationships between Impundulu and Bomkazi are wide and varied, and they might be like lovers, parents, siblings or simply friends.
The Embrace: An Impundulu sire might embrace from two main sources: those who are too sick to live, yet not ready to die, and those mortals who work necromantic magic. Hailing from either group, the childe contributes to the lineage’s necromantic prowess, as he has been close to death, or is skilled in manipulating it. No Bomkazi, even dying, has ever asked to be embraced.
Clan Disciplines: Necromancy (primarily Cenotaph and Haunting Path), Fortitude and Presence.
Weaknesses: An Impundulu only gains sustenance from the Bomkazi. As the witches are independently powerful and their relationship with the Impundulu is voluntary, the Impundulu does well to treat any Bomkazi as an equal ally, as opposed to a retainer, with all the complications this might entail.
Organization: Between the Impundulu and his Bomkazi companion, there is little that he is not prepared for. As such, he has no pressing need for a larger organization. Still, both Impundulu and Bomkazi like to get together with their peers to discuss magical workings. Impundulu also gather when a Bomkazi dies, to make sure the witch’s soul makes it safely to the afterlife.
Cainites: The concept of High Clans and Low Clans is strange to me. Impundulu become elders based on merit, not birth, and the Bomkazi are our equals by right. Why are these High Clans high and the Low Clans low?
Bonsam: Beware the Bonsam, for they cling to a territory like the dead to memories. If they ask you to leave, take it seriously.
Cappadocians: Like us, they hold death in their grasp. We could learn from them and they from us, if they’re open to a trade.
Followers of Set: Sorcerers more concerned with their Serpent God than anything else. Their honeyed words are poison. I wonder what their goal is.
Ramanga: Noble, yet humble. Strong, yet helpful. They communicate as easily with the living as we do with the dead. Only if you’re fooled by them though.
Tremere: Their brethren spurn them as upstarts and traitors. Still, they seem to have powerful magic. We should speak to them, but carefully lest their reputation holds true.
Tzimisce: These sorcerers have a sinister reputation and I would normally avoid them, but beggars can’t be choosers; I will trade knowledge with them.
My hand is extended in friendship. I only wish to help.
Long ago, on an island off Africa’s South coast, lived Ramanga and her brother Rafazi. Ramanga was the oldest child of the tribe’s chief and exceedingly smart as well as ambitious, but, since her tribe was patriarchal, the younger Rafazi was marked as heir. Unwilling and unable to accept a secondary role, Ramanga made sacrifices to the spirits of her tribe to bribe them into raising her above Rafazi. When that didn’t work, she began sacrificing to increasingly darker spirits until finally, one of them answered her call. The spirit offered to lift Ramanga up, if she would only sacrifice the sun inside her as payment. Heart already burdened by the unfairness of her situation and envy towards her brother, Ramanga willingly agreed.
During the course of seven nights, the dark spirit initiated Ramanga in its heritage of shadows and illusion; showing her that real power lay not in giving orders, but in making them. Outward power might lie with the chieftain, but real power lay with his advisors, the spirit said. Taking these lessons to heart, Ramanga returned to her tribe to ostensibly support her brother even while she adroitly manipulated him to do only her bidding. Cementing her control over Rafazi and, later, his sons with the power inherent to her sunless blood, Ramanga directed the future of her tribe from that night onward. One island wasn’t enough to quell her ambition though, and soon she began teaching others to be like her so they might further spread her influence. Since then, Ramanga’s lineage has spread over the African continent, controlling its leaders like puppet masters.
A Ramanga typically maintains the facade of a humble servant, gently guiding people for their own good. She likes to remain close to her mortal followers, living amongst them as if she belongs. A Ramanga is often the first Laibon in a region to meet with European Cainites and, in typical diplomatic fashion, she might avoid direct clashes and instead make suggestions on how to best approach things. As a result, a Cainite Prince may come to view her as a valuable ally or guide. Of course, a Cainite declining to take a Ramanga’s advice might find himself catching a carefully orchestrated sunrise even as she remains clearly blameless.
Appearance: The oldest Ramanga hail from Africa’s South and West coast, but younger Laibon come from all over the continent. A typical Ramanga is well-dressed and well-groomed, though careful never to outshine her nominal tribal leaders. Amongst her tribe, the Ramanga might adopt a docile demeanor, but she stands proud and tall when dealing with her own kind.
Haven and Prey: A Ramanga lives amongst her tribe and might even be known, and accepted, by her tribe elders for what she is. She is seen by them as a supernatural lightning rod, who will draw bad omens to herself and thus protect the tribe. This is seemingly not a lofty position as she is viewed by them as a servant, but the Ramanga knows better: she is the one who whispers in their ears, controlling their every action and thought. Many Ramanga maintain two havens: one known, where the tribe elders can seek her out during the night, and one hidden where she spends her day in safety. As part of her services to her tribe, a Ramanga drinks the blood of the tribal elders and there is rarely need for her to hunt. Even away from her tribe or moving into a new territory, she has the skill to quickly set up a new group of people to serve, as it were, and feed from.
The Embrace: A Ramanga is typically very careful about selecting her childe, choosing someone who is an ambitious and skilled manipulator, yet smart enough to stay out of the spotlight. She is willing to invest in the creation of the perfect childe, sometimes manipulating mortal children from birth until one of them shows the qualities she seeks. After the Embrace, a new Ramanga traditionally stays with her sire for several centuries, until she has learned all she needs. Bonds between childe and sire remain close, though not always amiable, even after such tutelage is done.
Clan Disciplines: Aizina (Obtenebration), Obfuscate, Presence
Weaknesses: A Ramanga’s use of Presence and Aizina, when impacting others, is at +1 Difficulty normally. However, if she has a physical piece of the victim, this changes to -1 Difficulty instead.
Organization: A Ramanga meets with all her brethren several times a year, in large gatherings meant to discuss new regional developments, trade territories and so on. Elaborate ceremony ensures that these meetings progress peacefully, postponing rivalries until the procedure is done. This internal collaboration makes any Ramanga a force to be reckoned with, since her goals are usually backed by the bloodline as a single, unified entity. Acting in concert, she and her kin are all but indomitable on the continent’s South and West shores and wield significant power on the North and East coasts.
Ramanga herself is still actively involved with her lineage. At first glance, she seems to have no end goal other than spreading and cementing her control over the continent, but there might have been more to her bargain than merely sacrificing the sun.
High Clans: Prestige does not equal power. Watch and learn, little Cainite.
Low Clans: Poor downtrodden pets. Is there anything I can do to help?
Bonsam: Such power, if we can point it in the right direction.
Brujah: We meet again. I do so hope things are better for you this time.
Followers of Set: Careful. These manipulators are very nearly our match.
Impundulu: Are they playing at being a witch’s servant, or is their servitude real? Intriguing.
Lasombra: Ah. Now things become interesting. Come and play, Cainite. My puppets against yours.
Ventrue: So obvious. So gaudy. Yet undeniably powerful. How have they not been struck down yet?
Here are some of the Disciplines you’ll see for Laibon characters:
The Bonsam claim heritage from a hunter possessed by a darkness before the light. It is impossible to trace the veracity of this statement, but the Discipline of Abombwe certainly taps into both primal darkness and predatory prowess.
• Predator’s Communion
The Laibon is the greatest predator in his territory and senses whenever a potential ally or rival is nearby.
System: Spend a blood point. For the rest of the scene, the Laibon can sense predators in the area, including vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, predatory animals, and mortals or ghouls with a Road of 4 or less. To pinpoint the location, or find a hidden creature, the player rolls Perception + Survival (difficulty 6, modified by the strength of the predator as determined by the Storyteller; stronger predators are generally easier to detect).
•• Invoking the Predator
Sculpting the malleable darkness inside him and pushing it outward, the Laibon can copy aspects of predatory animals.
System: This transformation takes one turn and requires one blood point. The character might grow claws that inflict Strength +1 Lethal damage, or a tail for balance. Most transformations are automatic, but particularly exotic ones, such as poison glands, require an Intelligence + Survival roll (difficulty 7). A botch results in a successful transformation, but adds cosmetic changes such as scales or stripes. This power does not suspend the laws of physics; the Laibon cannot create wings or spider webbing strong enough to carry his weight.
••• Unseen Hibernation
The Laibon makes his lair inside natural formations, plants or earth by melting into the darkness hidden under their surface. A natural object significantly altered or sculpted by man is not suitable for this power; so a wooden hut cannot be used, but a tree with carvings on it might do.
System: The player spends a blood point. Unseen Hibernation is automatic and takes a turn to complete. The character falls into a consciousness one step above torpor during this time and his player must make a Humanity or Path roll (difficulty 6) for the character to rouse prematurely.
Locating the character is at +2 difficulty and astral individuals cannot affect him directly, instead meeting with writhing darkness as their hands pass through him.
Violence upon the submerged vampire expels him from the object in a blinding spray (Perception at +2 difficulty for the turn). The vampire subtracts two from his initiative for the first turn upon expulsion, but may act normally after that.
•••• Power from Darkness
The Laibon lets darkness flow out and over him like black, clotted blood that clings to his body; granting him power and special abilities even as the light repels it.
System: This power costs two blood points and is automatic. One transformation may be active at a time, lasting for a scene, during which resisting Rötschrek is at +1 difficulty.
Examples of use are listed below, but players and Storytellers are encouraged to come up with their own changes:
Hands – Punches inflict Strength +1 aggravated damage.
Head – Gain the ability to see perfectly in normal darkness and a -2 difficulty seeing in supernatural darkness. Spit a toxin (Dexterity + Athletics (difficulty 7)) that paralyzes any enemy’s limbs it touches unless the target succeeds at a Stamina roll (difficulty 7).
Torso – Sprout four spider legs which allow for one additional attack as part of a multiple action in a turn. Climb actions automatically succeed, and attempts to escape by running are at -2 difficulty.
Legs – Kicks inflicts aggravated damage. Leap up to 10 times the normal jumping distance and receive -1 difficulty to landing safely after a fall or jump.
Throat – Emit a primordial roar. Mortals and ghouls must succeed at a Courage roll (difficulty 9) or flee, whilst supernatural beings must succeed at a Courage roll (difficulty 8) or become weak with terror (all dice pools reduced by half, rounded up).
••••• Predator’s Transformation
The Laibon slays a predator and consumes a part of it, be it heart, liver, flesh or blood. He then becomes that creature, while his vitae fully absorbs its essence.
System: The player spends one blood point and rolls Stamina + Survival (difficulty 7). If successful, the Laibon physically transforms into the creature. The creature must be predatory in nature and at least the size of a cat. Humans and supernatural beings may be duplicated, but this does not include powers. Predator’s Transformation lasts until sunrise or the Laibon ends the power.
A Laibon may duplicate a previous transformation without consuming another creature. This requires a Stamina + Survival roll (difficulty 10) with difficulty reduced by one for each time he has killed and transformed into a creature of that type, to a minimum difficulty of 6. With mortals, vampires and other humanoids, the Laibon takes on an average appearance for his victim’s ethnic group, unless the player succeeds on the roll at difficulty 9, in which case the previous transformation is perfectly duplicated.
••••• • Incarnate Darkness
Perhaps emulating the horror that created his lineage, the Bonsam becomes a mass of darkness, writhing and turning as it tries to emulate predators not known to man. In this form, the Laibon becomes the ultimate hunter: both deadly and unseen.
System: This power costs three blood points, but requires no roll, as the Laibon’s blood bursts from his skin and transforms him into roiling darkness. The vampire may take on one of three basic shapes: winged (allowing for flight at 25 mph (40 kph)), insectoid (burrowing through earth and rock, and granting automatic success on climb rolls) or brutish (all brawling damage increased by +1 Lethal). In addition, his Physical Attributes increase by three, while Social Attributes drop to zero (however, the vampire may substitute Strength for a Social Attribute for purposes of intimidation). Becoming the perfect stalker, the Laibon’s Perception and Stealth rolls are at -2 difficulty. His claws and teeth inflict Strength +2 aggravated damage and inject the victim with an inky poison that causes one level of damage per turn in living victims (see poisons, p. xx) until the toxin is nullified.
Path of Haunting
The Path of Haunting, mainly used by the Impundulu but increasingly popular with Cainite necromancers, concerns itself with the power death holds over the living, rather than the dead themselves.
• Song of the Dead
The vampire chants, weaving unheard words into the song and instilling an unhealthy fascination with death in his listener. Afflicted individuals find themselves drawn to lonely, inauspicious places as they sink into depression; mortality concerns them as never before and they see ill omens everywhere. Affected by this power for an extended period, mortals go mad and become suicidal, while vampires eventually succumb to torpor.
System: The vampire chants to the victim while his player spends one blood point and rolls Manipulation + Occult (difficulty of the target’s Willpower). A botch indicates the vampire affects himself as though he had gained successes equal to the 1’s rolled. For a number of nights equal to the successes rolled, the target suffers depression and morbid anxiety. This fixation adds +2 to the difficulty of Social rolls (except those involving Intimidation) and +1 to the difficulty of all other non-reflexive rolls. If a target suffers the effects of this power for more continuous nights than her permanent Willpower, she loses a dot of permanent Willpower. This cycle continues after an interval of the new rating in days, with the victim losing a dot of permanent Willpower after each such iteration. Once a character drops to zero Willpower, she commits suicide (if living) or falls into torpor (if a vampire). If the power is interrupted for at least one night, the victim recovers her permanent Willpower at the rate of one dot per week. A vampire who falls into torpor from reaching zero Willpower awakens with her original rating.
•• Summon Wisp
The vampire infuses droplets of his blood with the ephemeral energy of the netherworld, and summons a sphere of flickering lights. The wisp dances and moves at his command, and its hypnotic quality may lure unsuspecting mortals into a trap or provide a clever distraction.
System: The player spends one blood point and rolls Charisma + Occult (difficulty 5) to conjure an orb of pale light that lasts one scene. The wisp can take any color the vampire chooses and has no substance or weight. It may fly as fast as the vampire can run, casting cold illumination as bright as a candle. Mortals who behold the wisp must roll Willpower (difficulty 4) and achieve more successes than the caster or fall into a mild trance, which adds +1 to the difficulty of all actions due to distraction. If the vampire’s successes double their own, they follow the light without regard for any but the most obvious obstacles. They walk around trees and rocks, but fall prey to quicksand or a high parapet. Any loud noise or other distraction immediately breaks the reverie. If the vampire’s player botches the conjuration roll, the wisp appears and acts with its own malevolent agenda. Such a creature is only a nuisance, but can display remarkable cunning in luring enemies to the vampire’s haven or giving away his position.
Harrowing extends the terror inflicted by Song of the Dead by haunting her in her sleep; turning her dreams to nightmarish visions of her own death.
System: The vampire makes eye contact with the victim, while his player spends one blood point and rolls Manipulation + Occult (difficulty of the target’s permanent Willpower). If successful, the victim feels a slight sense of unease. When she next sleeps, she suffers horrible nightmares about her own demise. Even though she cannot fully remember the content of her visions after she wakes, the emotional trauma prevents her from regaining Willpower. In addition, her twisted déjà vu and unnatural paranoia give her the Nightmares and Eerie Presence Flaws (see p.XX) for the day. A botch in casting this power inflicts the same terrible dreams on the vampire when he slumbers.
The vampire sculpts the energy of the netherworld into elaborate hallucinations that terrorize the living. These apparitions have no substance, though they emit a surreal cold, and cannot speak or perform complicated actions.
System: The vampire envisions the desired apparition, while the player spends one blood point and rolls Manipulation + Occult (difficulty 7). A botch calls the attention of a malefic ghost, giving the vampire the Haunted Flaw (see p.XX) for a number of nights equal to the 1’s rolled. Each success allows the vampire to create one phenomenon, or add one characteristic or condition to another phantom. For example, three successes could animate shadows to shuffle and writhe (one success) and create an illusion of dripping gore that bursts into a spray of flies when someone draws close (one success for the gore and one success for the condition). This power may create apparitions anywhere in the caster’s line of sight. The Storyteller remains the final arbiter of what is or is not possible with this power.
The vampire rends the shroud between life and the netherworld around his victim, calling malicious ghosts so they may haunt her.
System: The player spends one blood point and rolls Manipulation + Occult (difficulty 8). On a botch, the vampire permanently gains the Haunted Flaw (see p.XX), attracting the vilest and most hateful ghosts. If successful, the victim feels a sudden chill. The difficulty for ghosts to affect the target with any power decreases by one for every success rolled, to a minimum of difficulty 4. Malicious ghosts flock to the target eagerly inflicting every horror at their disposal. The difficulty reduction diminishes by one every day at dawn until the victim returns to normal and the spectres lose interest. Multiple applications of this power may not be stacked to increase duration or intensity of effect. The statistics and powers of spectres are left to the Storyteller, but the experience should terrify the character utterly and may well result in derangements at the least.
Ages ago, Lazarus, the wandering childe of Cappadocius, discovered a cult of mortals who worshipped in Egypt a woman named Lamia, a powerful sorceress who claimed direct descent from the Dark Mother, Lilith. Fascinated by her knowledge, awed by her power, and perhaps even entranced by her beauty, Lazarus Embraced Lamia upon the altar of her temple.
The legend becomes murky here. Rumors persist that, after her Embrace, Lamia gently beckoned Lazarus over and whispered a few words into his ear. Upon hearing them, Lazarus fled the temple and has rarely emerged since. Regardless of what transpired between them, Lazarus has gone into hiding since that day, and his maggot-white skin turns paler still when the name of Lamia is mentioned.
Lazarus is not the only one of the Kindred to fear the Lilin. They are renowned for their martial prowess and mental discipline. Their place among the Kindred is complex. They do not seek out mortal power or influence, nor do they care for the petty rivalries and factionalism of the Jyhad. They rather prize learning and knowledge — specifically of the occult. Their studies make them well-matched with their Cappadocian clanmates, though they are more likely to learn through ritual, direct experience, and meditation than by a more scholarly approach. It is not uncommon for a Lamia to live as an itinerant scholar or duelist, traveling between Domains, only returning home to impart the wisdom earned on her travels to her flock.
Appearance: The Lamiae do not possess the corpselike pallor of the other Cappadocians. Older Lamiae are generally descended from the people of Egypt and the Holy Land are thus as diverse as its peoples: Copts, Arabs, Jews, Kurds, Turks, Nubians, Berbers, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans alike are found in the elder generations. Younger generations tend to also include some members from Western and Northern Europe, but they’re comparatively rare.
When not in a ritual space, most Lamiae dress in armor or practical clothing that allows them to move quickly and freely. For women, this often means affecting masculine dress.
Haven: In general, the Lilin take their Havens in remote areas mortals are reluctant to visit. Crypts, graveyards, shrines, and abandoned plague-villages are ideal locations for a Lamia to rest. Lamiae who are closely aligned with a local cult will often make their havens in the ritual space of the temple, if one exists.
Background: It is commonly assumed that the Lamiae Embrace women almost exclusively. This is incorrect. Like their female counterparts, male Lamiae are typically Embraced because they are mortal cultists, magicians, or scholars. They must, however, recognize and venerate the feminine aspects of the divine, and consider women to be –at the very least– equals to men. The clan attracts members who find themselves stifled or persecuted under patriarchal norms. Although our modern concepts of gay men, lesbians, transgender persons, or bisexuals do not exist as such in the Dark Medieval, Kindred who might be considered as such by modern eyes are frequently encountered among the Gorgons.
Character Creation: Nearly all Lamiae are trained in combat, though many receive this training after the Embrace. Survival, martial prowess, and Stamina are highly valued by the group. Knowledges, particularly involving the occult, as similarly valued.
Though they may have mortals as followers or magi as allies, the Lamiae seldom have Backgrounds that relate to status in Kindred courts outside of their own clan Even by Kindred standards, the Lamiae who deign to swear fealty to a Prince seldom seem to take their oaths particularly seriously. It is currently fashionable among the Kindred for a Prince to keep a Lamia as an enforcer.
Nicknames: Gorgons, Lilin
Clan Disciplines: Fortitude, Necromancy, Potence. The Lamiae have developed their own branch of necromancy — the Path of Four Humors — which is guarded carefully and only taught to those who have come to venerate the Dark Mother.
Weakness: The Lamiae are not touched by death in the way that the Cappadocians are. No, the Gorgons say, they are blessed by that great and terrible Mother that lies beyond death, and her merciless and terrible love brings ruin to those who are weak enough to not withstand it.
The bite of the Lamiae brings the Seed of Lilith, a wasting plague that rots away the members of a still-living body until eventually killing mortal victims, causing one lethal damage per night (nightly Stamina roll, difficulty 7 to resist) for a fortnight. Any Kindred that consume Lamiae blood will also be carriers of the disease until all Lamia blood is purged from their bodies.
Organization: The Lamiae are organized in small cults throughout Europe, North Africa, and the Holy Land. They will typically be found wherever the feminine divine is worshipped; many shrines to Mary have a cult of Lilith hidden behind them. These groups are typically secretive, tight-knit cells composed of less than a dozen Gorgons and their mortal worshippers. It is not uncommon for childe and sire to stay in close contact even long after the Embrace. A few high-ranking representatives of the Lamiae will make the annual pilgrimage to Ericyes with the rest of the Cappadocians, but most Gorgons convene instead at the Temple of Lamia.
Assamite: Your sanctimony won’t save you.
Brujah: Delight in the pain. Don’t rage against it. You might actually learn something that way, if you even care about learning anymore.
Cappadocians: They will never admit it, but they truly fear the darkness. Why else would they hide behind their cadavers and their musty books?
Followers of Set: There is only one Serpent, little hatchlings, and She is greater than your pathetic little god.
Gangrel: Feed and fuck and breed and suffer. Know the world with the dark animal of your body.
Giovanni: They think themselves unnoticed.
Malkavian: Wisdom is to be experienced, not learned. They know this.
Nosferatu: If you have the patience to suffer their quasi-sincere groveling, you may learn much from them.
Ventrue: You were given the night, and this is what you’ve chosen to do with it?
Baali: Demons are our brothers and sisters, and we do not fear them. We do not serve them, either.
Caitiff: Get up. You will endure, and grow strong.